As More Allegations Surface, Kevin Clash -- the Voice of Elmo -- Resigns from "Sesame Street"
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As More Allegations Surface, Kevin Clash — the Voice of Elmo — Resigns from "Sesame Street"

By Dustin Rowles | Trade News | November 20, 2012 | Comments ()


I had kind of hoped we could simply leave this damn story alone, after the 23-year-old man who alleged that Kevin Clash had underage sex with him had recanted his story. However, the story simply will not die. First, it was reported that Clash's original accuser accepted $125,000 pay off to recant his story. Then, a few days later, the accuser said that he was coerced into accepting the settlement, and now he's apparently recanting his recant, and he wants to sue to undo the settlement.

Meanwhile, another allegation -- a kind of ridiculous one -- surfaced from an accuser who claims that Clash had sex with him while he was an underage boy 20 years ago, claiming that the emotional effects of the incident didn't rise to the surface until 2012. He's seeking $5 million in damages, and also claims that Clash trolled gay chat lines to pick up underage boys back in the day.

Now, the Associated Press is reporting that Clash has resigned from "Sesame Street," either because some or all of these allegations are true, or -- and I hope more likely -- Clash and "Sesame Street" mutually agreed that Clash's association with a character targeted toward children was no longer sustainable due to the allegations.

Whatever the real story is, I just kind of hope it goes away. I don't think I can handle it if this turns into another Sandunsky.

"Sesame Street" released this statement:

Sesame Workshop's mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential. Kevin Clash has helped us achieve that mission for 28 years, and none of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organization. Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from Sesame Street. This is a sad day for Sesame Street.

(Source: NYTimes)

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Buck Forty

    Since everyone else is speculating wildly, my 2¢:

    It's possible Clash met someone online in a chat room, which led to some offline activity, which led to a steamy affair, which led to a discovery "WTF? You're HOW old"?, which led to "we have to stop", which led to "can't stop, dammit",which led to more steam, which led to the inevitable blowout.

    Years later someone needs money and wants to get paid. Payer does maths and decides its better to pay up than get into a sordid discussion on what actually did or didn't happen.

    Or more likely Clash knew that trying to argue he didn't know his lovers age when it started would be futile in the court of public opinion. Or that the tabloids would discover he'd once searched "How to roast a baby seal" or whatever. Clash knew he couldn't win so he took himself out of the game, rather than defile the Elmo 'brand' which means so much to so many.

    Again, it's all wild speculation on my part. He could have been trawling for underage sex on gay websites, seducing young boys who deserve better protection from predators.

  • TheGreatUnstainer

    I'm a bit uncomfortable about the tone of the article. Do you have evidence that the claims are false, Dustin? If not, the innuendo about the credibility of the claimants is poor form.

  • Ben

    Ok just to be clear, I give precisely no fucks about Elmo one way or the other, but honestly it's a little unsettling the way people are so quick to jump to his defense when the accusations are that he diddled underage boys because they really like Elmo.

  • Pookie

    "Being Inside Elmo" The Kevin Clash Story.

  • Tennyo

    Honestly really sad. It seems interesting that these allegations come to light when Sesame was just starting to bring Kevin Clash into the spotlight with films like 'Being Elmo'. It seemed like he really embodied the spirit and philosophy behind Sesame Street and I'm really that this man who loves his job and has done so much good, should have to leave. Especially as he is so integral to the machine that is Sesame Workshop, especially after Jim Henson died. Elmo is more than just a voice, he is a character and that character was forged by Kevin Clash.

    If the allegations are true, than I am seriously disappointed in humanity. Why are so many people in power so tempted to abuse others? Even those who seem like the best of men or women. If the allegations are false, than I am seriously disappointed in humanity. People should be ashamed to want to destroy a good man's reputation for money, or for pride.

  • Angie

    I'm not saying that I don't believe any of the accusers, because only certain people know the truth about the situation. However, I can't help but wonder if they guys Clash met on the phone sex line had hooked up with any other 18+ yr old men... and, if so, how many of those men will get sued as well?

  • googergieger

    You guys ever read the comic The Nightly News? Basically in this Fox News world once the information or the possible information comes out, it can no longer be taken back. People are forever guilty. So whether he did or didn't do it, he will forever be the guy that did a horrible crime or possibly did it. If he did do it, then fuck it. I'm actually for the death penalty in pedophile cases. If he didn't do it, then sucks. Never going to be able to have the life he had. Hope he has enough money to retire off of.

  • Artemis

    This story makes me sad on so many levels. Like NateMan, I have a default position of not disbelieving people who allege sexual assault. Part of the reason I have that as a default position is because so many people take the opposite position and knee-jerk respond to every allegation of a sex crime with victim blaming and doubt-casting that they would never apply to other types of crimes. And because Elmo -- and Clash himself, following Being Elmo (and yes, I also loved that movie and loved him during it) -- is so beloved, it's been even moreso in this case.

    So no, we don't know what happened. But before anyone starts talking about how the accusers are so troubled or sketchy, remember that people who victimize minors often purposefully choose victims who they don't think will be believed (see also: Sandusky). And before anyone says that even if they were underage they willingly had sex with Clash, remember that it wouldn't matter if that were true because it would still be against the law -- and that the reason it's against the law is because we have made a collective judgment that a teenager can't give meaningful consent to sex with an adult, regardless of what they say at the time. And before anyone says that it looks like these guys just want money, take a look at the shitstorm they're in the middle of right now and ask yourself whether, if you were a victim, you would feel like talking about something terrible that had happened to you and then be met with overwhelming scrutiny, skepticism, and anger. Sometimes the reason accusations look like they're about money is because even legitimate victims have zero incentive to put themselves through what is happening to those two men right now unless they think they can get something out of it.

  • FrayedMachine

    Well, okay. I've gotten into this discussion previously and am sure I'll receive heat for this again but 17/18 is not this magical age in which the concept of sex magically clicks in someone's head. There's parts of the world (Developed first world countries mind you) where the age of consent is at around 16 (which, if i remember correctly, is the age in which this relationship my or may not have occurred for him).

    With all of that aside, though, I don't think anyone's out right saying that he didn't do it, or that there was no assault that occurred. I think, however, that it's pretty understandable as to why people would be inclined to want to wait until they hear further information on the situation before a conclusion is made. It's namely the introduction and want of Money that has me (and many others) raising an eyebrow. I can understand wanting to see someone behind bars for sexually assaulting you but I don't get why you would ask to be paid off to "keep your mouth shut" essentially (as being presented in the second assault victim's situation) when you're already putting this allegation out there.

    I think I would personally be more open to outright believe that these are 100% true accusations if there was no money involved and it was pretty strictly about jail time. Wanting justice is one thing, looking to be paid off is an entirely different story.

  • Artemis

    Obviously there's no magic age where someone clicks over from teenager who can't meaningfully consent to adult who is fully capable of consent. Which is why, instead of interrogating teenagers in a courtroom about whether they really understood sex and were really up for it, we set a bright line in the law and tell adults to say no if the other person is below it. No matter how much it seems like the teenager is into it, or how much it seems like they understand what's going on. Not just because 16 year olds might have trouble fully understanding what they're consenting to, but also because it will be much harder for them to say no when they're in that situation with someone 10 or 20 or 30 years older than them. And while I'm sure that there are rare cases in which a 16 year old can fully consent to and have a positive experience with a 40 year old, there are many more cases in which they can't and are really harmed by it.

    As for money vs. justice: in lots of cases, the statute of limitations doesn't allow for criminal prosecution (I have no idea if that's the case here, but it was for many victims of priests). In many cases, particularly where the only evidence is the accuser's word and the accused is someone as high-profile and loved as Clash, a victim knows they are very unlikely to ever prevail in a criminal case even if they are telling the truth. And in some cases, victims are sketchy people -- they're poor, they're themselves criminals, they care more about getting some money out of their experience than some abstract idea of "justice" that doesn't do a thing for them personally. None of that means that they weren't actually the victim of a crime, though.

    And while no one here has directly said they think these guys are lying (though a few have come close), that sentiment is ALL OVER the rest of the internet. I'm not asking people to believe the accusations, I just wish everyone would at least not disbelieve them, and especially not based on things that have been shown time and again not to be a reliable indicator of whether someone is telling the truth about being the victim of a sexual assault.

  • FrayedMachine

    What I think is really interesting is that people are auto presuming that Clash is the one who initiated and/or is pouncing/stalking/preying on the young. I'm saying this rather intensely as a devil's advocate but due to aforementioned reasons, I can still understand why people are a little skeptical as to how truthful these allegations are. It's clear that something happened since Clash has admitted that a relationship occurred and is officially stepping down from the role that he's in to help preserve the integrity of the character/series, but there's still something about this entire thing that does not smell right.

    There's a lot of demonizing on Clash's part that's occurring which also doesn't sit well with me because what if he actually -is- innocent and didn't sexually assault or abuse anyone? To say that he's picking his 'victims' because they are less likely to be believed is kind of a far stretch. Are we really insinuating that Clash is a true Predator?

    You can say that they're doing it because they're poor/what have you but that in and of itself kind of makes me feel less likely to believe them and actually feel sympathy for them. Because of this, it could mean that the relationship was, in fact, consensual, and that nothing victimizing actually happened. I remember even reading in a statement of Clash's that it either happened when this guy was of "legal age" or he at least thought he was.

    So yeah. What's happening is a lot of his word versus mine. But nothing in this situation seems to be clicking particularly well. If this victim is looking for money to be compensated for what happened then why recant? To potentially get more money? It makes the person seem particularly opportunistic, like they were waiting for a poignant part in their lives to actually use this against him.

    Now, again, I'm not saying either way that I believe Clash vs. Accuser, but even the way you're trying to defend the potential victim makes me question the validity of his statement even more.

  • Artemis

    What I think is really interesting is that people are auto presuming that Clash is the one who initiated and/or is pouncing/stalking/preying on the young.

    I was intending to say that, and apologies if that's how it sounded. My position -- and the law's position, incidentally -- is that it doesn't matter if Clash was minding his own business when some sex-crazed 16 year old started BEGGING him to get down. It's still on the adult to say no, and I don't think that's a particularly unreasonable expectation for us as a society to place on adults.

    And yes, there are many, many people who were convicted of sexual assault of minors who exhibited a clear pattern of choosing victims (which doesn't, btw, mean they're the Predator -- it means that of the various opportunities that they may have encountered, they decided that this one was the time they would go ahead) who were unlikely to be believed. Sometimes they may have done so specifically for that reason -- it probably happens more often than you think, frankly, and it may even be unconscious in many cases -- but sometimes it's a product of the other reasons that they decided to abuse a particular victim. Because many of the reasons that make children/teenagers vulnerable to abuse (poor, absentee and/or abusive parents, history of trouble with school/the law, drug or alcohol abuse at a young age, mental illness or disability, etc.) are also things (or can cause things) that make society disbelieve victims.

    So I'm not saying that we should believe Clash did it because it's obvious he had some mustache-twirling evil plan in which he ranked a bunch of kids on the grounds of who would be least believable and then selected the sketchiest looking one, planning to use that to defend himself if the abuse should ever come to light. I'm saying that the reasons that 16 year old boys might be on a phone chat line/having a relationship with a 40 year old man, and the reasons why a 40 year old man might think he wouldn't get caught, often correlate with reasons why people don't believe those boys down the road when they allege abuse.

  • FrayedMachine

    My point was not to say that there are no people who have patterned behaviors. My point was to say that is it really a safe direction to assume that he, too, is one of those advanced predators? To say that is basically saying that he's a complete and total sociopath. That he has no regard for any human being. That's a very intense and heavy thing to be trying to imply or put forward and though I am not denying that this is possible, what I am saying is that this is the kind of mentality that ruins innocent people. We're judging someone for something that could have very well have been legal (at least to his knowledge) or at least something that wasn't even "bad" (in the sense that it was not sexual assault and/or abuse) and, in turn, pretty much ruining his credibility as not just a human being but as a symbol for 'innocence'.

    Also, he didn't meet both men on a sex chat line. Only one of them has stated that they met him this way, and the other I believe they met each other through work related reasons.

    But again, you're demonizing him quite intensely by even making an implication to any given degree that yes, to some level, it is an evil mustache twirling plot.

  • Artemis

    Look, I am NOT SAYING that Clash is guilty of anything or
    did anything wrong. I am saying that there are a lot of people, even respectable and nice-looking people, who abuse children and teenagers, that you don’t need to be an “advanced predator” to decide that you would rather make an advance on a poor kid with absent parents than a rich kid with actively
    involved ones, and that a lot of the reasons victims are dismissed are actually not particularly good ways to tell whether someone is lying.

    But when you say this:

    We're judging someone for something that could have
    very well have been legal (at least to his knowledge) or at least something that wasn't even "bad" (in the sense that it was not sexual assault and/or abuse) and, in turn, pretty much ruining his credibility as not just a human being but as a symbol for 'innocence'.

    It makes it sound like you care a lot more about the
    possibility that Clash's reputation is being unfairly tarnished than about the possibility that he sexually assaulted two teenagers. Because you don’t seem to have a lot of
    concern about judging two people for something that could very well have been illegal, or at least something that was “bad” (in the sense that ALL statutory rape is sexual assault) and, in turn, pretty much destroying their ability to trust the rest of the human race, not to mention heal from their trauma.

    I’m not saying anyone should condemn Clash right now. I’m saying people should just not decide that his accusers are lying at this point. If you think that acknowledging the possibility they are telling the truth is the same thing as calling Clash a sociopath, then I don’t know what else to say.

  • FrayedMachine

    I'm providing an opposing argument to a statement that equally sounds heavily biased, so yes, it's going to come off as being worried about Clash's reputation. My original statement in and of itself was just to provide reasons why people are likely to feel apprehensive over the idea of outright believing the accusers (and do not inherently read this as saying that this auto-makes them believe Clash, not supporting one thing does not inherently mean the support of another).

    But no, this is not what you're saying things like " and the reasons why a 40 year old man might think he wouldn't get caught," it certainly makes a heavy implication of heavily guilty behavior.

    I'm one of the many people who've already posted in the stance that what happened sucks either way and like I've said it already, I find it hard to be inherently swayed in either direction when the situation seems so shady all over and I think it's perfectly acceptable and understandable for others to withhold total judgment or to even try to sway other's stances without further information provided.

    Because again, being paid off and coming back again seems sketchy, and $5 million is a lot of money. It's obvious that something happened due to Clash's response, what's unclear is what exactly.

  • Artemis

    But no, this is not what you're saying things like " and the reasons why a 40 year old man might think he wouldn't get caught," it certainly makes a heavy implication of heavily guilty behavior.

    That quote refers to a hypothetical in which a 40 year old man has a sexual relationship with a 16 year old boy. Yeah, in that hypothetical, there's "heavily guilty behavior" because what's happening is illegal and most people committing crimes don't want to get caught.

  • Guest

    I guess it's naive of me, and that one doesn't preclude the other, but I have a hard time believing that anyone as kind as Kevin Clash could be sexually abusive to a child. He took time out of his busy schedule to be kind to the Roth family from my area who had lost a child to a horrible disease, Tripp who loved Elmo more than just about anything. He showed them around Sesame Street, introduced them to other puppeteers, etc., all on a day when he didn't have to be on set. http://randycourtneytripproth....

  • Artemis

    I'm sorry, but that is more than naive, it's willful blindness. Remember how people initially defended Sandusky because he ran a charity for troubled kids and spent so much time and money trying to help them? Many of those kids said that he was nothing but good to them and never made any inappropriate advances, but his kindness to them didn't prevent him from abusing others.

    Whether or not the accusations against Clash are true, committing a sex crime is not incompatible with displaying kindness in other ways. It's just not.

  • NateMan

    I have a default position of believing accusers are legitimately survivors; it's only fair, after all, to treat each case with the legitimacy we'd give any other crime accusation like robbery or assault. It's also reasonable for a survivor of sexual assault to accept a civil settlement and punishment for his attacker rather than a criminal one, if that's what they choose. And, unlike some, I'm not more likely to believe a female survivor than a male one.

    That said, everything about this case has sounded shady from the start. And I don't think anything that's been reported in the media is anywhere approaching a full story. If it happened; it's a shame and a tragedy. If it didn't, it's a shame and a tragedy. And I don't envy anyone involved in this case or its investigation.

  • True_Blue

    How about the fact that the law firm which represented the first accuser took themselves off his case before the settlement (which the accuser now wants to undo)? Why would lawyers walk away from the case (and guaranteed fee)?

  • FrayedMachine

    Ugh. Everything about this situation stinks. i feel bad because the first accuser officially sounds sketchy and as if he's looking to get more money out of the situation. Whether the accusation is true or not, the whole thing seems soiled and tainted. I get it, shit like this happens, but when money gets involved to make it go away and then suddenly it comes back... things stop seeming legit. The second accusation I just don't even know what to think of. I want to be sympathetic but that's a large sum of money that's being asked for that seems relatively arbitrary to the situation entirely. I get wanting to see someone who assaulted you behind bars but what's the point in asking for money out of it? I feel bad that I'm questioning people who could potentially be actual victims but man, the request and introduction of money makes things so questionable.

  • Alice

    The first accuser really loses credibility by accepting shut-up and go-away money. Now he's feeling greedy, probably both for more money and more spot-light. I choose to believe the best in Kevin Clash until something more incriminating is revealed.

  • Isn't being an adult puppeteer enough?

  • Other suspect adult professions:

    1) Clown
    2) Gymboree employee
    3) CFO

  • e jerry powell

    4) College football coach.

  • Fredo

    So does that mean Elmo is done at Sesame Street? Or will they hire someone else to do the voice and hope kids won't notice?

  • heels4theWin

    I read in the NYT that he had been training a few people for awhile to take over his role eventually. One of them will be picked to take over...and to be honest, the kids probably WON'T notice, which may be a good thing.

  • BWeaves

    Someone else will step up to do the voice. Granted, Kermit has never been the same for me after Jim Henson died.

  • KatSings

    This makes me sad. Functioning under my hope that the allegations are false, credit where it's due to Clash for leaving to attempt to preserve the integrity of the character he worked so hard to create. (If the allegations are all true and he's not the guy Being Elmo made me believe he was, then my feelings alter, but I don't know the truth here, and probably never will, so I choose to believe the best).

  • This is so much sad and I don't even know how to handle it.

  • BLA

    I hesitate to want this story to go away if the victims really are legitimate, but I agree with the overall sentiment; This is effing depressing. And I was honestly set to show "Being Elmo" to my mother this Thanksgiving, it being the only movie this year which made me cry twice.

  • Arran

    The story's terrible no matter who you believe. Either a talented, by all accounts very nice man is being wrongly accused, or a talented, by all accounts very nice man is a sexual predator. Neither option is any fun at all.

  • duckandcover

    I have a feeling the first one is legitimate, but he invalidates his credibility with the whole "Yo dawg I heard you like scandal so I put some scandal in your scandal while you scandal your scandal." Suing to undue the settlement? You won, Accuser #1. Just let the whole thing die.

    I think I can watch Being Elmo without this affecting me, though. I've managed to keep separate most personal scandals from art (and it's also because I'm skeptical these accusers are telling the truth).

  • lonolove

    I wouldn't be able to for the simple fact that the document highlights what a lifelong dream it was for him to be involved in a show like that, and his perseverance paid off (What are the chances? It's amazing!)...only now to watch him lose that is devastating.

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