I don’t really know what to think about this whole Kevin Clash scandal resignation, exception I guess that I’m really sad and disappointed to hear about it.
When the news first picked up last week that someone was accusing Kevin of sexual abuse and then was almost immediately thereafter withdrawn, I felt a sigh of relief that these accusations towards the Muppeteer behind one of Sesame Street’s most beloved characters were untrue. It seemed like a rough 24 hours, but Sesame Street had stood behind their employee – this guy who had spent the last 30 years living his dream of being a puppeteer and also helping to take Sesame Street to new heights as an Executive Producer – and it looked like it was all just going to be some admittedly ugly water under the bridge.
When I read the updated headline today about there now being a second accuser, I didn’t even have to read the story to know that this probably meant the end of the man’s career and sure enough, he ended up resigning because he couldn’t allow the controversy, right or wrong, to take away from Sesame Street any longer.
There are so many ugly questions that I don’t even want to think about – what’s true and what’s made up, how do you define sexual abuse without actual sex, why are they coming out now nearly two decades later, is all of this motivated purely as a money grab or is justice legitimately being sought? I saw one commenter ask why the lawsuit filed only asks for a financial settlement and not criminal charges, implying that this was just a guy out to make a quick buck, but then again I don’t know about statutes of limitations and how all of that plays into account – maybe at this point money is all a lawyer could get.
I guess what’s sad to me is that we even saw last week that it doesn’t take a guilty verdict, just an accusation to muddy someone’s reputation, and when it came out that Kevin was gay, unfortunately in many’s eyes that was already a strike against him. It also seemed suspicious when the first accuser was quick to say, “Here are my accusations – I will not be making any comment about them.” followed by, “My client retracts his previous accusations – we will not comment further on this issue.” Fishy because Kevin’s name (along with Elmo’s) was in every publication in the country, whereas this accuser was able to hide behind the veil of anonymity even after admitting that his statement was false.
…though now he claims that he was paid $125,000 as a settlement to drop the issue, so … ughhhh – who knows?
The thing is, I certainly don’t want to denounce the victims here if it’s true that they were in fact victims, but so much is still up in the air and all we in the public really know for sure is that one of the most experienced veterans in the Muppet world has been forced into resignation so as to not further drag the work that he loves down with whatever’s going to happen to him. Volunteering to resign alone just seems like an unfathomable call to me, like sacrificing yourself for a child, because deep down he loves them so much that he knows that they have to go on without him.
At one point Sesame Workshop was also quoted as saying that the role of Elmo is bigger than any one puppeteer to reassure everyone that the character would continue to exist regardless of whatever happened with Kevin, just like Kermit the Frog lived on after Jim Henson passed away and so many others have transitioned to new performers at this point as well. Still, to have to look in and see someone else now performing a role that you created and were in no way ready to give up?
I’ve watched a lot of interviews about all of the Muppet performers, including Kevin, over the years and he always seemed like such a cool, down-to-earth, passionate guy who clearly just loved making kids smile and laugh just like Jim did. Though the way they’ve been stacking up now suggest otherwise, I hope that ultimately all of this washes out and we come to find that Kevin was really innocent after all. It wouldn’t be the first time that someone has tried to blackmail a celebrity for money or fame, though in just about every case it always ends up ending the celeb’s career either way.
Regardless of whatever ends up being true, you can’t deny that we’re losing an incredible talent in the world of children’s entertainment with Kevin’s unexpected departure and that the man made an immeasurable contribution to Sesame Street that helped enrich the lives of millions of children around the world very much so for the better…