Kevin Clash, the voice of Sesame Street muppet Elmo for the past 2 decades, has taken a leave of absence after being accused of underage sex with a 16-year-old boy.
Clash, 52, vehemently denies the allegations although he doesn't deny a sexual relationship took place between him and the now 23-year-old man.
"I had a relationship with [the accuser]," Clash told TMZ. "It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to make it into something it was not."
TMZ reports that Clash hired attorneys after meeting with Sesame Street lawyers to address the man's allegations.
According to TMZ, Clash's unidentified accuser hired the law firm of Andreozzi and Associates -- the same attorneys who represented a victim of convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky.
Sesame Street Workshop officials confirm to TMZ they met with the accuser twice, and exchanged communications with him and his attorneys.
The accuser claims Sesame Street attempted to silence him to protect the reputation of one of its muppets. But Sesame Street lawyers told TMZ they conducted a thorough investigation into the man's allegations and determined the underage sex accusations were not substantiated.
Sesame Street did confirm emails sent between the man and Clash, but the content of the emails did not indicate an underage sexual relationship. Still, officials reprimanded Clash for inappropriate use of company emails.
Sesame Street brass tells TMZ: "Kevin insists that these allegations are false and defamatory and he has taken actions to protect his reputation. We have granted him a leave of absence to do so."
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