"Sesame Street" puppeteer Kevin Clash, who gave life to Elmo, has resigned because allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy became a "distraction," the Sesame Workshop said.
Clash is leaving his workplace of 28 years despite the fact that his accuser recanted his allegations within 48 hours of going public with them. Through his lawyers, he said that his relationship with Clash was "an adult consensual relationship." The accuser's name has not been released.
Sesame Workshop expressed sorrow over Clash's resignation.
"Sesame Workshop's mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential," it said in a statement. "Kevin Clash has helped us achieve that mission for 28 years, and none of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organization."
Sesame Workshop said that Clash has decided that he can no longer be effective in his job because of the allegations.
"This is a sad day for Sesame Street," Sesame Workshop said.
Clash maintained his innocence as he took a leave of absence. At the time, Sesame Workshop did not comment specifically on the sex allegations, but said that Clash was disciplined after he "exercised poor judgment" and "violated company policy regarding Internet usage."
Clash was the subject of the 2011 documentary "Being Elmo," which chronicled his life. He grew up in Baltimore and helped create one of the most beloved characters in children's entertainment.
During a promotional interview on NPR's "Fresh Air" for the film, Clash described the excitement that comes over children who visit the "Sesame Street" set.
"They run to Elmo because it's a friend of theirs that they've been talking to and communicating with and singing with for so many years," Clash said. "We've found that the delusion is not broken by seeing us puppeteers. They see the characters in front of them. ... I get humbled by it all the time. The things that they tell Elmo, the expression on their face when they see their friend."