- Kevin Clash, 52, is on leave after the programme's lawyers were contacted by a 23-year-old man
- Accuser claims he had a sexual relationship with the puppeteer seven years ago, when he was aged 16
Kevin Clash, 52, has taken a leave of absence from the popular children's show after the programme's lawyers were contacted by a 23-year-old man who claims he had a sexual relationship with the puppeteer seven years ago, when he was aged 16.
TMZ, who reported the allegations, said that Mr Clash had admitted he had a relationship with the man, but only after the accuser was an adult and said the accusations were both false and defamatory.
'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,' said Mr Clash who joined Sesame Street in the mid-80s,
The website reported that after the accuser's initial meeting with Sesame Street lawyers, he felt that that he was being silenced so he hired a lawyer.
He is now being represented by Andreozzi and Associates - the firm that worked with one of the victims in the Jerry Sandusky child rape case.
In August, the accuser's lawyers wrote a letter to Sesame Street accusing the programme of trying to 'discredit the victim in order to protect its employee and the image of one of its most valuable characters,'
The letter also claimed the show's attitude 'places a greater value on a puppet than the well being of a young man.'
They claim rather than trying to hush up the accuser, they asked for evidence of his allegations, which was not received.
The website reported they had seen an email supposedly sent to the accuser by Mr Clash, acknowledging they had the affair when he was 16, but officials believe it is fake as they say the accuser never mentioned such an email existed.
Sesame Street disciplined Mr Clash for inappropriate use of company email after they found emails between him and the accuser, but they did not indicate an illegal sexual relationship, according to TMZ.
It is unclear why Mr Clash wanted a leave of absence, since he denies the allegations of underage sex, but the programme told TMZ it was to allow him to defend his reputation in the wake of the damaging allegations.
Mr Clash has been the Elmo puppeteer for two decades, performing on the show as well as for PBS specials, DVD releases and TV movies while earning nine Daytime Emmy Awards.
He eventually assumed the title of Sesame Street's Senior Puppet Coordinator and Muppet Captain, while also directing and producing show segments and TV specials.
Earlier this year he was the feature of Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey a documentary detailing Mr Clash's childhood obsession with puppets to assuming his role on the iconic show.