The most famous street on television, Sesame Street, will lose one of its most famous residents: Kevin Clash.
Sesame Street puppeteer Kevin Clash has resigned from the legendary PBS children’s television show after 28 years of performing. Clash left after being accused of engaging in a sexual relationship with a minor. His accuser recanted his statement, but the damage is obviously permanent.
As I posted earlier, I was curious if Clash’s career would be able to withstand this scandal. I mentioned the famous example of Paul Reubens whose career in children’s entertainment was derailed after he was arrested in an adult movie theater for allegedly masturbating in a public place. Despite public outcry over the overblown charges, Reuben and his alter-ego, Pee-wee Herman were MIA for years.
Now, it goes without saying that we have to take every accusation of underage sex seriously. Too many times victims of rape and/or sexual assault are subjected to doubt, shame, and blame. But in Clash’s case we have to go with what we know: Clash had a relationship with his accuser, but insists that it was an adult relationship, which the accuser confirmed after recanting his allegation. So with the information handy – and unless some more details surface – we have to work on the assumption that Clash is innocent and that this terrible scandal has grounded a legendary career in children’s entertainment.
Clash’s resignation seems to be his falling on the sword. The Sesame Workshop released a statement to the New York Times:
“Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin’s personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from Sesame Street. This is a sad day for Sesame Street.”
To protect Sesame Street, its branding and specifically Clash’s most popular character – Elmo – Clash has moved on. I hope that Clash will be able to carve out a second career – hopefully back on PBS, where he belongs. Still I agree with the folks at Sesame Workshop, it’s going to be a really sad day on Sesame Street.
Update:According to TMZ, a second accuser has come forward with similar claims as Clash’s first accuser. I’ll reserve judgement because it’s TMZ, and well, it’s not the most reliable source of information. If Clash’s second alleged accuser is telling the truth, then Clash should be held accountable.
Update [Nov. 27, 2012]: According to TMZ, a third person has come forward with accusations that Clash had a sexual relationship with him when he was 16. The original accuser also has reportedly admitted that he was paid hush money to recant his story.
Update [Dec. 10, 2012]: According to AP, another man came forward with allegations, bringing the total up to four.