Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who created the “Elmo” character during his years working for Sesame Workshop, is facing new accusations of sexual relations with a minor, as well as charges that he used the illegal drug known as crystal meth. Clash resigned from Sesame Street in November of last year after two accusers alleged sexual misconduct.
More on the new lawsuit from NBC News:
The man behind the iconic “Sesame Street” character is named in a sexual abuse lawsuit filed by Sheldon Stephens, who was the first individual to accuse Clash of abuse in 2012.
Stephens claims in a new complaint filed Monday in Middle District Court of Pennsylvania that he and Clash met in 2004 through a social networking event for models and actors. According to a press release sent by Stephens’ attorney Jeff Herman, the complaint includes accusations that Clash and Stephens began having sexual intercourse when Stephens was 16. It details an occasion when Stephens was still 16 and Clash hosted a “crystal meth sex party” at his apartment. The complaint also accuses Clash of doing meth at that party, giving the drugs to Stephens, and engaging in sexual contact with the then-teenager.
Michael Berger, an attorney for Clash, issued a statement Tuesday calling the lawsuit “meritless” and “barred by the statute of limitations.” In the statement, Berger writes that Stephens has “already admitted in writing that he had ‘an adult consensual relationship’ with Mr. Clash. Mr Clash continues to deny any wrongdoing, and we intend to defend this case forcefully.”
Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
The Boy Scouts of America, which has been fielding criticism in the wake of revelations of sexual abuse by its leaders, has announced it is reconsidering its policy of barring openly gay boys and men from participating in the organization. More from CNN:
The organization, which has 2.7 million members, is “potentially discussing” doing away with its national policy after months of protest, including hundreds of angry Eagle Scouts renouncing their hard-earned awards and mailing back their red-white-and-blue medals.
Many parents of Scouts across America found the national policy excluding gays confusing — and at odds with basic scouting ideals.
Social media were abuzz with outrage over the policy; gay men who used to be Scouts spoke out in first-person blogs. On her TV talk show, Ellen DeGeneres featured a California Scout who had been denied his Eagle rank because he is gay.
Members of the organization’s national board are expected to bring up the issue at a regularly scheduled biannual meeting in February. Any change would be announced after that.
In the Scouts’ statement Monday, the group indicated that the national board may consider passing any decisions on gay membership to the local level. Each troop’s charter organization would be able to decide “consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.”
“The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue,” the statement said.
The statement itself is remarkable. Some members will see the fact that Scouting’s national leadership is even discussing a policy change as a softening of its stance on gays and lesbians.
But some Scouts and Scout parents say that passing the decision to the local level will have little effect on the ground, because many troops have been ignoring the national policy anyway.
Image: Boy Scout, via Shutterstock
Friday, December 14th, 2012
The number of children who are abused or neglected in America has dropped for the fifth year in a row, an annual report from the Department of Health and Human Services has announced. More from The Huffington Post:
The latest annual report from the Department of Health and Human Services, released Wednesday, estimates that there were 681,000 cases of child abuse or neglect across the nation in the 2011 fiscal year. That’s down from 695,000 in 2010 and from 723,000 in 2007.
“We have made excellent progress over the past five years,” said George Sheldon, HHS acting assistant secretary for children and families. “But what this report tells me is that we still have 681,000 children out there who need our help.”
The number of abuse-related fatalities was estimated at 1,570 – down from 1,580 in 2010 and from 1,720 in 2007. About fourfifths of those killed were younger than 4, and parents were deemed responsible for nearly four-fifths of the deaths.
Texas had the most fatalities, with 246, followed by Florida with 133, while Montana reported no abuse-related deaths. The highest rates of child fatalities were in Louisiana, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Regarding the overall maltreatment figures, white children accounted for almost 44 percent of the victims, black children for 21.5 percent and Hispanic children for 22.1 percent. About 11 percent of the victims were physically or mentally disabled.
Regarding types of maltreatment, 78.5 percent of the victims suffered neglect, nearly 18 percent were physically abused and 9.1 percent were sexually abused. The report tallied 61,472 children who were sexually abused in 2011 – down dramatically from the peak of about 150,000 in 1992.
The report, formally known as the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, is based on input from child protection agencies in every state. About four-fifths of the reports received by the agencies do not lead to findings of maltreatment, according to the report.
Image: Sad girl, via Shutterstock
Tuesday, November 20th, 2012
Kevin Clash, the creative force behind the popular “Elmo” character on Sesame Street, has resigned from Sesame Workshop after more than 20 years as the beloved character. The resignation came after a roller coaster week that began with allegations that Clash had a sexual relationship with a minor and Clash took a leave of absence while the matter was under review. The accuser, now 23 years old, then recanted his allegations, only to reverse that decision and return $125,000 Clash had paid. That man, whose name has not been identified, has not filed a lawsuit.
Tuesday, a second accuser emerged, 24-year-old Cecil Singleton, who is suing Clash for $5 million in damages for having “sexual activity” when Singleton was 15. As news of the lawsuit broke, Clash announced his resignation. From The New York Times:
“Announcing the decision with what he called a “very heavy heart,” Mr. Clash said in a statement, “Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work ‘Sesame Street’ is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer. I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately….”
While Mr. Clash’s departure on Tuesday put some distance between the sex allegations and the iconic children’s character, the claims may affect the “Sesame Street” brand in ways that remain to be seen.
Hasbro, the main toy licensee for “Sesame Street” products, said in a statement Tuesday, “We are confident that Elmo will remain an integral part of ‘Sesame Street’ and that ‘Sesame Street’ toys will continue to delight children for years to come.” Macy’s, in a statement, said the episode would have no bearing on “Sesame Street’s” presence in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade later in the week….
“None of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organization,” the organization said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin’s personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from ‘Sesame Street.’”
The statement concluded, “This is a sad day for ‘Sesame Street.’ ” The organization declined interview requests.”
Monday, November 19th, 2012
Less than a week after recanting allegations of sexual misconduct against Sesame Street’s famed “Elmo” creator and puppeteer Kevin Clash, the 23-year-old Sheldon Stephens is apparently renewing his accusation, saying he was paid $125,000 by Clash to recant his original complaint and wishes to return the money and pursue the matter through legal channels. More from Boston.com:
“Clash, the puppeteer behind the beloved children’s character Elmo, paid his accuser, Sheldon Stephens, $125,000 to recant a claim that the pair had a sexual relationship when Stephens was 16 and Clash was 45, reports TMZ.
Stephens accused Clash of the inappropriate relationship last week and then recanted his story.
When Stephens recanted, he said, through his lawyers, that “his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship.”
Now he’s changing his story again.
TMZ reports, ‘We’ve learned Stephens has met with lawyers in Los Angeles and told them he was pressured into recanting his allegation and insists he’s telling the truth when he says he had sex with Clash when he was 16.’”