Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who controlled the iconic "Sesame Street" character Elmo, took a leave of absence from the Sesame Workshop after he was accused of having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy.
Clash, who is 45, has acknowledged that a relationship took place, but insists it happened after the accuser was an adult.
"Although this was a personal relationship unrelated to the workplace, our investigation did reveal that Kevin exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding internet usage and he was disciplined," Sesame Workshop said in a statement. "Kevin insists that the allegation of underage conduct is false and defamatory and he is taking actions to protect his reputation. We have granted him a leave of absence to do so."
Clash's accuser contacted the workshop in June and alleged that he had a sexual relationship with the puppeteer seven years ago.
"We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him," the statement said. "We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation."
TMZ reported that the accuser has hired Andreozzi & Associates, the Pennsylvania-based law firm that defended Jerry Sandusky. But a female employee who answered the phone at the firm told TheWrap she had "no information" on whether the lawyers were involved.
Still, the workshop said the scandal should not alter the Elmo character, which has been a staple on "Sesame Street" and a merchandising force.
"Elmo is bigger than any one person," it said, "and will continue to be an integral part of 'Sesame Street' to engage, educate and inspire children around the world, as it has for 40 years."