Update: According to The New York Times' Media Decoder blog, the accuser has since recanted his claim.
Yesterday, it came to light that Kevin Clash, the Sesame Street muppet captain who’s played Elmo for nearly thirty years, was accused of having a relationship with a sixteen-year-old. Clash admits to a prior relationship with the accuser, but insists it was consensual, and when the accuser was of age. He is taking a brief leave of absence from Sesame Street to deal with the accusations.
Sesame Workshop writes in an official statement: "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."
Regardless of what becomes of these accusations, and Kevin Clash’s career, has the loveable red little Muppet Elmo been sullied forever? In short, can audiences separate the man from the muppet?
Mark Sussman is a puppeteer, theater artist, and professor at Concordia University in Montreal. He’s also the co-founder of Great Small Works, a Jim Henson Award-winning theater collective in New York.