The Voice of Elmo Did Not Break the Law

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Nov. 13 2012 5:35 PM

The Voice of Elmo Did Not Break the Law

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Kevin Clash holds an Elmo puppet

Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Yesterday the gossip website TMZ broke the news that Kevin Clash, the voice of Elmo, had been accused of statutory rape by a former lover who is now 23. Clash, who became better known after he was featured in the acclaimed documentary Being Elmo, acknowledged the relationship, but said that the accuser was an adult when it began. Clash was backed up by his employers at the Children's Television Workshop. But CTW did discipline him for inappropriate use of his professional email account, and granted him a leave of absence, reportedly to fight the allegations.

Given the disciplinary action and the leave of absence, many people online seemed to assume that Clash was guilty. But news now comes from Brian Stelter of the New York Times that Clash's accuser has recanted:

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The accusations against Clash always seemed potentially very cruel: Because Clash works with children, any charge of sex with a minor was likely to be especially damaging. That the relationship was between two men made Clash even more vulnerable, since many people continue to ignorantly conflate homosexuality and pedophilia. One can only hope that the news of this recanting is shared half as widely as the accusation itself was.

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.

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