(LOS ANGELES) — Kevin Clash, the 52-year-old puppeteer who lends his voice to the Sesame Street character Elmo, has taken a leave of absence from the kids’ show after he was accused of having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy, TMZ.com is reporting.
The gossip site says Clash admitted having an affair with the person in question but insists that person was of legal age at the time. The relationship reportedly happened seven years ago, according to his accuser, which would mean Clash would have been 45.
Sesame Workshop tells TMZ, “This was a personal relationship, unrelated to the workplace. We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action.”
However, after a “thorough investigation,” it determined the underage sex allegation “was unsubstantiated,” the gossip site reports.
The accuser apparently felt Sesame Workshop was trying to muzzle him, so he reportedly retained the services of the legal firm secured by one of Jerry Sandusky’s sex abuse accusers.
Calling the accusations “false and defamatory,” Clash tells TMZ, “I had a relationship with [the accuser]. It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to make it into something it was not.”
While Clash is taking a break from the show, Elmo is not.
“Elmo is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part of Sesame Street to engage, educate and inspire children around the world,” the show’s producers tell the site.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Noelle Baldwin, Deseret News
Eric Bradner, CNN
Lisa Respers France and Brian Stelter, CNN