UNDATED (CBS) -- This morning the voice of Elmo is taking some time off from "Sesame Street." The character's puppeteer is fighting allegations of a sexual relationship with an underage boy.
To millions of young children, Elmo is iconic. Kevin Clash is the man behind the fuzzy red puppet and according to one documentary, turned elmo into a cultural phenomenon.
Clash, 52, is accused of having sex with a 16-year-old boy. His accuser, now 23, told Sesame Street's producers in June that they began a relationship 7 years ago.
In a statement, Sesame Workshop said: "We... conducted a thorough investigation and found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated... Our investigation did reveal that Kevin exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding internet usage and he was disciplined."
Clash has taken a break from Sesame Street so he could defend himself from what he called "false" and "defamatory" accusations. He said in a statement, "I am a gay man... I had a relationship with the accuser," he said. "It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to characterize it as something other than what it was."
Whether the scandal will have lasting damage remains to be seen; Elmo is one of the faces of Sesame Street with countless DVDs, games, and toys to his name.
In all, Sesame Workshop made nearly $47 million in royalties from merchandise tie-ins in 2010. So Elmo is no ordinary puppet, he's also lots of cash-in-hand.