Elmo's right-hand man Kevin Clash says he's done nothing wrong.
Clash, who's performed as beloved Elmo for 27 years, was granted a leave of absence from Sesame Street Monday after allegations that he engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with an underage boy. Later in the afternoon, Clash, 52, confirmed to E! News that he did have "a relationship with the [now 23-year-old] accuser," but says it was not an illegal one.
"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," Clash said in a statement, denying accusations that he had sex with his accuser when he was just a 16-year-old boy. "I am taking a break from Sesame Workshop to deal with this false and defamatory allegation."
Clash also confirmed he is "a gay man" and has "never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt [my relationship with the accuser] was a personal and private matter."
Sesame Workshop backs up Clash on one count, saying that after a "thorough investigation" they "found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated."
Still, the family-oriented organization found that Clash "exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding Internet usage and he was disciplined."
The Workshop added that Clash "insists that the allegation of underage conduct is false and defamatory and he is taking actions to protect his reputation." He has been given a leave of absence to do so.