Elmo's Accuser Recants Molestation Claims
UPDATE (11/13/12 4:43 PM CST): The man who made molestation claims against Kevin Clash, the 52-year-old voice and puppeteer of Elmo, has withdrawn his accusation.
In a statement, the accuser's lawyer said "he wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship."
Mr. Clash responded, "I am relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest. I will not discuss it further." There's no word on whether Clash will pursue defamation charges or when he will return to work on Sesame Street.
Scandal brews on Sesame Street as Kevin Clash, the 52-year-old voice and puppeteer of Elmo, has been accused of having sex with a 16-year-old male teenager.
This last June, the accuser — who is now 23 and whose name has not been released to the public — sent an e-mail to a Sesame Workshop PR executive alleging that he had been molested by the puppeteer of a major character; neither mentioning Mr. Clash nor Elmo by name.
The Workshop spoke with the accuser two hours after recieving the e-mail. They later hired legal counsel and spoke with the accuser twice. Afterwards, the involved parties hired three outside investigation firms to examine the accuser's claims and the Workshop also conducted an internal investigation.
The internal investigation concluded that, apart from using poor judgement and sending personal messages his through his work e-mail, Mr. Clash had done nothing illegal. The accuser has stood by his claims, going so far as to hire the same lawyers that represented the child molestation victims in the recent Jerry Sandusky case.
His attorneys told the celebrity gossip site TMZ that the accuser has evidence of Crash's crime. But the Workshop questions the evidence's authenticity, leaving the legitimacy of the claim up to speculation.
As news of the allegations hit the web late last week, Mr. Clash took a leave of absence from the show to consider which legal and public options could restore his reputation. Yesterday, he also released the following statement:
"I am a gay man. I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter. I had a relationship with the accuser. It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to characterize it as something other than what it was. I am taking a break from Sesame Workshop to deal with this false and defamatory allegation."
Without any incriminating pictures or correspondence, the accuser's molestation can be difficult to substantiate. Molestation is an out-and-out crime on par with non-consensual sex and rape.
But consensual sex between an older person and a teenager always raises a larger question about age of consent laws.
Since the age of consent in New York is 17, any New Yorker who has sex with a 16-year-old is open state statuatory rape charges.
But consider this: the age of consent in every state surrounding New York is 16. In fact, 16 is the legal age of consent in 35 (or 70 percent) of all U.S. states. So illegality in this case could hinge as much on the consensuality and age of the accuser as the act itself.
Sex between older people and teenagers may seem immoral, but in most parts of the U.S. it's not illegal.
However, that outlook changes when you consider that Catholic priests charged with the sexual abuse of a minor have sometimes used similar arguments to exculpate themselves from wrongdoing. They argue that young teenagers are capable of coming onto older adults and conseting to sex, making both the teenager and the adult responsible for sexual engagement.
By that reasoning, anyone over the age of consent can make their own sexual choices and live with the consequences; an argument that'd more than likely be a hard sell to any parent of a 16-year-old.
Thus, the allegations facing Mr. Clash rest entirely upon his accuser's alleged evidence and whether that evidence can prove the ages amd circumstances surrounding the two men's acquaintance. The evidence could either substantiate the accuser's claims or render his entire story altogether fabricated.
Either way, Elmo and Sesame Street have a image nightmare brewing around Mr. Clash and their plucky, red-furred character.