Kevin Clash, known as the voice of Elmo on Sesame Street, has taken a leave of absence from the children's show after underage sex allegations were made against him.
Clash, 52, denied the allegations made by a 23-year-old man, who claims they began a sexual relationship seven years ago when the accuser was 16.
"I had a relationship with [the accuser]," Clash tells TMZ. "It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to make it into something it was not."
Sesame Workshop issued a statement Monday via The Associated Press, saying, "We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action. We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation."
Clash, who has been a puppeteer on the show since 1984, was granted a leave of absence at his request to "protect his reputation," Sesame Workshop explained. "Elmo is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part of 'Sesame Street' to engage, educate and inspire children around the world, as it has for 40 years."