The drama surrounding Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind the famous Sesame Streeter Elmo, has come to a close. At least, as far as the career implications for Clash are concerned. Today, he announced that he was resigning from his position with Sesame Workshop due to the “controversy surrounding [his] personal life.” With the original accuser taking back his recantation and a new charge heading to court, it’s easy to see why Clash decided to hang up his puppet for good.
The drama surrounding Clash came to light when a young man claimed that the two had a physical relationship while the man was still 16 years old. Immediately, the media pounced on the story of a beloved children’s character engaging in underage sex.
In the following days, Clash’s first accuser recanted his statement, saying that their relationship didn’t take place until he was a legal adult. Then, just a few short days later, the young man said that he’d been pressured to take back the charges and paid $125,000. The young man reiterated his original claims, that he and Clash had a physical relationship while he was still a minor.
At that point, the Kevin Clash story was a little crazy. It was difficult to separate fact from fiction. There were plenty of heated emotions, some defending Clash against the negative accusations while other still questioned what was going on. The story wasn’t over, but it seemed to be too convoluted for judgment from any side.
Then, a second accuser stepped forward. Now, there’s a new man claiming that he and Clash had a relationship while he was still a teenager in high school. This man, a 24-year-old named Cecil Singleton, says that he and Clash had a physical relationship in 2003, when Singleton was just 15 years old. He’s suing the puppeteer for $5 million.
It is in the wake of these second charges that Clash resigned from his job as the voice of Elmo. His employers say that the character will live on, and Clash will be helping them find a permanent replacement.
This case has raised plenty of emotions. Whether it’s the incorporation of an iconic children’s character or just the nature of sexual assault cases in general, it’s struck a nerve with the general public. There has been a rush to defend Clash against his accusers. There’s been an immediate backlash against the young men stepping forward. But the truth is that no matter how funny you think a “Tickle Me Elmo” joke might be at the moment, these are both cases of possible statutory rape. They deserve to be taken seriously. And if the accusers choose to move forward with litigation, they deserve to have their day in a court of law.