Kevin Clash, the man who created the voice and persona of Elmo on Sesame Street, has resigned, one week after a 23-year-old man recanted allegations he had a sexual relationship with the actor when he was a minor.
"Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer," Clash said in a statement. "I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately."
Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind the popular children's show, said it was a "sad day for Sesame Street."
"Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction that none of us wants, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from Sesame Street," Sesame Workshop said in a statement.
The alleged underage relationship, which the accuser later said was false, was brought to the attention of Sesame Workshop by the accuser, though it was not made public until last Monday.
Clash called the allegation "false" and "defamatory" and took a leave from the show.
Sesame Workshop said it took the allegation "very seriously" and had taken "immediate action," but after an investigation, which included interviews with Clash and his accuser, found the claims to be "unsubstantiated."
One day after the allegations were made public, the unidentified man recanted the allegation.
"He wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship," said a statement issued by the unidentified man's representative, Andreozzi & Associates. "He will have no further comment on the matter."
No charges have been filed.
Clash acknowledged he had a relationship with his former accuser when they were both adults.
"I am a gay man. I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it but felt it was a personal and private matter," Clash said. "I had a relationship with the accuser. It was between two consenting adults."
Clash, who is divorced and has one daughter, began using a falsetto voice in 1984 to bring life to the furry red monster. This year, Clash took home his 21st Emmy and the fourth in a row for "best performer in a children's series" as Elmo.
Clash spoke to ABC News "Nightline" last year about his passion for puppets while promoting the documentary "Being Elmo."
"I have Peter Pan syndrome, we call it," Clash said.
After learning how to sew around age 9 or 10, Clash ended up making 80 puppets. At first he was teased for his passion, but the taunts faded after he became more and more famous, he said.
"'You sleep with your puppets, you play with dolls,' you know," Clash said of being teased as a kid. "Then I did my first local television show and everybody thought 'that's cool,' so that went away."