Don’t Tickle Me Elmo

What happens on Sesame Street doesn’t always stay on Sesame Street. Earlier in the week Sesame Street voice actor and puppeteer Kevin Clash, who has been the man behind the monster for 27 years voicing Elmo, was granted a leave of absence from the popular children’s program amid sexual allegations with an underage male.

This has promoted Kevin Clash to make public that he is a gay man. Clash admits to having a consensual relationship with a man, who is now accusing Clash of rape.

Let’s look at some of the reasons why this situation is messier than Oscar the Grouch’s basement.

  • Sesame Street is a children’s program that has been running for over 40 years.
  • Sesame Street is operated by a family-oriented broadcaster in PBS.
  • Kevin Clash is one of the most visible puppeteers, making public appearances and most recently starring in the documentary, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey. The Special Jury Prize winter at Sundance 2011.

Kevin Clash and Elmo on the set of Sesame Street

It was known within the first 24 hours of this story breaking that the accuser reached out to Andreozzi and Associates as legal counsel. The same law firm that represented one of the victims in the Jerry Sandusky child rape case.

Three days after the allegations were made the charges were dropped. This happening so quickly will help Sesame Street and PBS back Clash when he insisted he did no wrong, that this was a consensual relationship separate from work.

“If it were any other type of product, keeping Clash is fine but they’re not selling Tide or Tylenol.” Cherie Kerr

However it might not be that easy. I would think Elmo might need to take a vacation from the busy street but Elmo is Sesame Street’s greatest asset.  Some say Elmo needs a new voice, “If they keep Clash’s voice every time someone hears that voice they will associate Elmo with those allegations,” said Cherie Kerr a PR expert. “If it were any other type of product, keeping Clash is fine but they’re not selling Tide or Tylenol.”

I think holding off on any new releases of Elmo products is where they need to start. Maybe the saving grace for Clash’s career is that the children who watch this program look up to Elmo and not the voice behind him. This will be an extremely interesting case to follow because it is not over yet… PURE Weekly will look in to Kevin Clash paying the accuser $125,000 for the recanted statement. More to follow.

For more on Sesame Street click here.


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