(NEW YORK) — Sesame Workshop issued a statement Monday saying it has investigated claims that 52-year-old Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash had an inappropriate relationship with a minor and found the claims were unsubstantiated.
Clash has taken a leave of absence from Sesame Street following accusations that he had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy.
According to a statement posted on SesameWorkshop.org, the now 23-year-old accuser contacted Sesame Workshop in June with his claims. The statement continues:
“We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action. We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation. We also conducted a thorough investigation and found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated. 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.”
The statement concludes, “[Clash] 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.”
In the meantime, Elmo will apparently remain a part of Sesame Street: “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, as it has for 40 years,” the statement reads.
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Madison Park, Keith Allen and Andreas Preuss, CNN
Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com
Eric Levenson, CNN