NEW YORK (AP) — In a quick turnabout, a man who accused Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash of having sex with him when he was a teenage boy now says they had a relationship as adults and it was consensual.
The man, who has not identified himself, released his statement Tuesday through the Harrisburg, Pa., law firm Andreozzi & Associates. It is not known why he made the accusation.
Sesame Workshop, which produces "Sesame Street" in New York, soon followed by saying, "We are happy that Kevin can move on from this unfortunate episode."
Clash also responded with a statement, saying he is "relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest." He had no further comment.
Neither Clash nor Sesame Workshop indicated on Tuesday when he might return to the show, on which he has performed as Elmo since 1984.
The whirlwind episode began Monday morning, when Sesame Workshop startled the world by announcing that Clash had taken a leave of absence from "Sesame Street" following allegations that he had had a relationship with a 16-year-old.
The 52-year-old divorced father of a grown daughter swiftly denied the charges of his accuser, who now is in his 20s. In that statement Clash acknowledged that he is gay but said the relationship had been between two consenting adults.
Though it remained unclear where the relationship took place, sex with a person under 17 is a felony in New York if the perpetrator is at least 21.
Sesame Workshop, which said it was first contacted by the accuser in June, had launched an investigation that included meeting with the accuser twice and meeting with Clash. Its investigation found the charge of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated.
Clash said on Monday he would take a break from Sesame Workshop "to deal with this false and defamatory allegation."
Elmo had previously been a marginal character on "Sesame Street," but Clash, supplying the fuzzy red puppet with a high-pitched voice and a carefree, child-like personality, launched the character into major stardom. Elmo soon rivaled Big Bird as the face of "Sesame Street."
Though usually behind the scenes, Clash achieved his own measure of fame. In 2006, he published an autobiography, "My Life as a Furry Red Monster," and he was the subject of the 2011 documentary "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey."
He has won 23 daytime Emmy awards and one prime-time Emmy.