Nov. 12, 2012 -- Kevin Clash, the man who has been the voice of Elmo on Sesame Street for 28 years is taking a leave of absence after allegations surfaced that he had a relationship with a 16-year-old boy.
"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. I had a relationship with the accuser. 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," Clash said in a statement issued to ABC News.
"I am taking a break from Sesame Workshop to deal with this false and defamatory allegation," he said.
The alleged underage relationship was brought to the attention of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization that produces the beloved children's show, in June by the alleged victim, who was by then 23 years old.
Sesame Workshop said it took the allegation "very seriously" and took "immediate action," but after an investigation, which included interviews with Clash and his accuser, found the claims to be "unsubstantiated." He has not been charged with any crime.
The investigation, however, did reveal that Clash and the man had been involved in a "personal relationship unrelated to the workplace" and that the puppeteer had exercised "poor judgment" on company email and was disciplined.
The accuser, who has not been identified, is being represented by Andreozzi and Associates, the same high powered firm hired by a victim of Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted of child sex abuse. A message left for his attorney was not immediately returned.
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.
In a statement, Sesame Workshop said, "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."
Clash spoke to ABC News 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 away after he became 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."