12 November 2012 9:32 AM, PST | Entertainment Tonight | See recent Entertainment Tonight news »

The puppeteer who voices the Sesame Street character Elmo has been granted a leave of absence from the long-running children's show in the midst of an allegation that he had a past relationship with a 16-year-old boy.

The Sesame Workshop issued a statement Monday saying that it first learned about the allegation against 52-year-old Kevin Clash last June by a then 23-year-old man who claimed to have begun a relationship with Clash when he was 16.

Related: Sneak Peek of Documentary Being Elmo

"We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action," the statement said. "We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation."

Clash issued a statement on Monday to People.com through his rep. "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," he said. "I »

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