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Kevin Clash
© AP/ Kevin Clash
Elmo puppeteer accused of underage relationship, taking leave from 'Sesame Street'

NEW YORK (AP) -- The puppeteer who performs as Elmo on "Sesame Street" is taking a leave of absence from the popular kids' show following allegations that he had a relationship with a 16-year-old boy.

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Sesame Workshop says puppeteer Kevin Clash denies the charges, which were first made in June by the alleged partner, who by then was 23.

In a statement issued Monday, Sesame Workshop said its investigation found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated. But it said Clash exercised "poor judgment" and was disciplined for violating company policy regarding Internet usage. It offered no details.

Clash told TMZ, "I had a relationship with (the accuser). It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to make it into something it was not."

At his request, Clash has been granted a leave of absence in order to "protect his reputation," Sesame Workshop says. No duration for the leave was specified. Clash has voiced and animated Elmo since the 1980s and was the subject of the 2011 documentary "Being Elmo."

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