Kevin Clash has resigned as Elmo's puppeteer, little more than a week following news of a sex scandal involving the longtime Sesame Street staple.
Clash,52, had been accused by a Pennsylvania man of having a sexualrelationship when the man was 16. Later last week, he recanted, claiminghe was an adult at the time, and Sesame made plans for Clash to return to work.
Buttoday, TMZ.com claimed a second man has accused Clash of initiating arelationship 20 years ago, when the man was 15, and has now sued him for$5 million, claiming he had only recently become aware of "adversepsychological and emotional effects."
The coverage was too much for Sesame, which did not address the latest allegations in its statement.
"SesameWorkshop's mission is to harness the educational power of media to helpall children the world over reach their highest potential," the companysaid. "Kevin Clash has helped us achieve that mission for 28 years, andnone of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attentionfrom our focus on serving as a leading educational organization.Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life hasbecome a distraction that none of us want, and he has concluded that hecan no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from Sesame Street. This is a sad day for Sesame Street."
Whilethe events threaten to tarnish the image of the children's mediacompany -- and disrupt toy sales, analysts say -- production of thepreschool series has continued, and Elmo will be played by understudiestrained by Clash.