Elmo, Sesame Street

PBS

Will Elmo now be tainted by the Kevin Clash scandal rumors? Or will the character remain on Sesame Street as before?
—O.K., via Facebook

You speak of allegations made against Elmo's puppeteer that the performer had sex with a 16-year-old boy. Kevin Clash told E! News he denies any wrongdoing, citing a "false and defamatory allegation," but the rumors are bound to affect the franchise if Sesame Street folks don't act fast.

How do I know? Because I spoke to people who specialize in brands in crisis.

Their biggest piece of advice: Get a new Elmo voice. Like, now.

"If they were my client I would tell them to hold back the release of any new DVDs or products and rerecord it with a new voice for Elmo," insists crisis PR expert Cherie Kerr. "If they keep Clash's voice, every time someone hears that voice they're going to associate Elmo with those allegations."

Why such a drastic measure, especially before we even know whether Clash actually broke the law or did anything unethical?

Because of what Elmo is.

"if it were any other type of product, keeping Clash would be fine," Kerr explains. "But they're not selling Tide or Tylenol. They're dealing with a children's product. Elmo is a benchmark for teaching kids everything from math to manners. They can't afford to stigmatize their image."

So far, we've heard no announcement regarding the future of Elmo's voice box. But Kerr predicts we'll be hearing a new Elmo soon.

"What you want to do is change the voice--make it not terribly different, but different enough to make you realize that this is not the same person you are hearing."

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