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Accuser recants sex claims against Elmo puppeteer: report

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The man who claimed he had underage sex with the puppeteer behind "Sesame Street" character Elmo recanted his claims on Tuesday, U.S. media reported.

The unnamed man, now 23, had claimed that Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash had a sexual relationship with him when the accuser was 16 years old, potentially engulfing one of the biggest childhood brands in an underage sex scandal.

"He wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship," the law firm Andreozzi and Associates, who represent the man, told U.S. media outlets in a statement.

Clash, 52, who had denied the allegations, said in a statement obtained by Reuters on Tuesday: "I am relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest. I will not discuss it further."

New York-based Sesame Workshop said on Monday that its own inquiry had concluded that the claims of underage sexual conduct against Clash were unsubstantiated.

"We are pleased that this matter has been brought to a close, and we are happy that Kevin can move on from this unfortunate episode," Sesame Workshop said in a statement on Tuesday.

Clash, 52, the voice of Elmo for nearly three decades, had acknowledged a past relationship with his accuser but said on Monday the pair were both consenting adults at the time. He termed the allegations "false and defamatory."

"I am a gay man. I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it," Clash said on Monday, saying he was taking a break from the TV show to deal with the situation.

Sesame Workshop said the allegations involving Clash came to its attention in June when the accuser first contacted the company by email. A company executive said it had found "absolutely no evidence that the allegations were true."

The Elmo character debuted on "Sesame Street" in 1979. While Clash was the third performer to animate the child-like shaggy red monster, Sesame Workshop credits him with turning Elmo into the international sensation he became.

(Reporting By Eric Kelsey and Piya Sinha-Roy, editing by Jill Serjeant and Cynthia Johnston)

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