It has been a rough few months for "Sesame Street." First, failed presidential challenger Mitt Romney threatened to fire Big Bird and then Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash was accused of impropriety with a child. It all began when an unnamed accuser told a gossip site that Clash had pursued a relationship with him at age 16. Clash, 52, has been the voice of Elmo for 28 years. His accuser is currently in his 20s.
The media ran with the story. After all, "Sesame Street" is the show that encouraged us all to read, write, and become decent citizens. Salacious headlines hit every newspaper and website. Elmo was a trending topic (with dirty jokes) on Twitter for 24 hours straight. A seductive email was even released. It didn't matter that even if the email is indeed real, the accuser would have been an adult when when he received it.
Clash took an immediate leave of absence from "Sesame Street" to avoid further tainting the beloved Elmo character. He vowed to clear his name and he did. The accuser has now recanted the story. The so-called former underage victim's representative announced, "He wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship."
It turns out that Clash was the victim of defamatory conduct, a vicious rumor, unending news cycles, and a post-Sandusky social climate. Obviously any threat of a child predator must be taken seriously. However, it's extremely sad that a man's reputation and livelihood could be ruined by any prospective nut with a lawyer or alleged disgruntled lover with an ax to grind.
We hope that the media covers this new story as viciously as they covered the first. Kevin Clash's name has indeed been cleared. Sesame Workshop stood by its puppeteer with the statement: "We are pleased that this matter has been brought to a close, and we are happy that Kevin can move on from this unfortunate episode." However, after a zillion dirty "Tickle Me Elmo" jokes, just in time for the holiday shopping season, we wonder if it's too late.
After all, you can't un-think a thought. The destructive genie is out of the bottle. Who will be able to look at Elmo without shades of this scandal coming to mind?
Should Clash retire? Of course not. He should get back to work at "Sesame Street" as soon as possible.
Up until this point, Clash has been speaking out about the issue through a representative. It might be smart for him to hold a press conference to firmly put the matter behind him. Then, if there are any other puppets he wanted to debut, this would be a good time. Let this ugly incident blow over and then bring Elmo back. Hey, if Pee Wee Herman was able to make a comeback, anyone can. The sad thing is that Mr. Clash did nothing wrong. What do you think? Sound off!
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