On October 20, 2012, Cecil Singleton, a 24-year-old college student, sued Kevin Clash for $5 million. He is the second accuser to allege abuse by Clash, a 52 year old puppeteer for Sesame Workshop and voice of the Sesame Street character, Elmo.
A week prior, 23-year-old Sheldon Stephens surfaced to say that he had been in a sexual relationship with Clash, which allegedly began at the age of 16.
Clash took a leave of absence while Sesame Workshop investigated the allegations. Sesame Workshop concluded that the allegations were unsubstantiated. However, as a result of the investigation, Clash was reprimanded for violating company policy related to his internet usage in the workplace.
Clash admitted to being gay (even though he is the divorced father of an adult daughter), claimed to have had an adult consensual relationship with Stephens.
Stephens recanted his story, a day after making the allegations, corroborating Clash’s claims.
“This office represented a 23-year-old man who was the subject of many media reports regarding Kevin Clash. He wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship. He will have no further comment on the matter.” ~ Andreozzi & Associates, legal representation for Sheldon Stephens, a firm that specializes in family law, sexual abuse and personal injury.
On, October 19, Stephens returned to his original stance, stating that he had been forced to accept $125,000 from Clash to recant. Singleton, the second accuser, said that Stephens’ public airing of abuse by Clash spurred him to come forward. Singleton stated that prior to hearing of Stephens’ allegations; he thought his was a “unique circumstance”.
Who is Kevin Clash?
Kevin Clash is the divorced father of a daughter, Shannon Clash, age 19. (Shannon Clash currently resides in Baltimore, Maryland with her mother and Clash’s ex-wife, Genia Clash.)
Clash has been a puppeteer since childhood, having created over 80 puppets before graduating high school. His career with the Sesame Workshop began in 1984.
He has been the voice of many Sesame Workshop characters, including Elmo, Hoots the Owl, Animal, Ms Piggy and Waldorf, to name a few. Clash was also the senior Muppet coordinator and Muppet captain.
In 2006, Clash published an autobiography, “My Life as a Furry Red Monster: What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud”. Clash was also featured in a 2011 documentary called, “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.”
Clash has received twenty-three day-time Emmy awards and one prime-time Emmy award.
It has been reported that Clash has resigned from Sesame Workshop on October 20, 2012.
“Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work “Sesame Street” is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer. I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately.” ~ Kevin Clash, Elmo puppeteer ends 28 year career with “Sesame Street”.
However, it maybe a case of a forced resignation, as the Sesame Workshop has issued a statement saying Clash acknowledged that he “could no longer be effective at his job”.
“The controversy surrounding Kevin’s personal life has become a distraction that none of us want[s]. This is a sad day for Sesame Street.” ~ partial statement from Sesame Workshop.
What’s in store for Kevin Clash?
Clash faces felony charges and time in prison. According to LegalMatch.com, in New York, the crime of 3rd degree rape is committed when a person over the age of 21 has sex with a person under the age of 17. It can be punished by 4 years in prison. The punishments are far more severe when the victim is younger. If the victim is under 15, the punishment is up to 7 years in prison.
Stephens’ claims to have began his relationship with Clash when he was 16 years old. Singleton has alleged that he met Clash on a gay chat line when Singleton was 15 years old. Singleton alleged that he and Clash had a sexual relationship for a two week period of time that did not include intercourse.
Singleton’s lawyer, Jeff Harman, stated that he has been contacted by two other potential victims.
“I thought I was a unique circumstance. I did not know that it was something he had done habitually.” ~ Cecil Singleton, second accuser of sexual abuse by Kevin Clash.
So, what is the future of Elmo?
The Sesame Workshop has conceded that the character, Elmo, “is bigger than one person” and that other employees, whom have already been trained to be Clash’s stand in, will resume the voice of Elmo.
Hasbro, the toy distributor for the larger than life character, has concurred with the sentiments of the Sesame Workshop by stating, “”We are confident that Elmo will remain an integral part of Sesame Street and that Sesame Street toys will continue to delight children for years to come.”
Hasbro has approximate annual sales of $75 million, with estimates as high as two-thirds attributed to toys featuring the Elmo character.
Are you going to continue to support Hasbro and Sesame Workshop by purchasing the Elmo toys and/or allowing your children to watch the character on television? Where should loyalties be placed … with the brands (Hasbro and Sesame Workshop), with the character (Elmo) or with the puppeteer (Kevin Clash)?