'Sesame Street' brand hurt as Elmo puppeteer resigns

The sex scandal surrounding Kevin Clash may impact Sesame Workshop's sales heading into the holiday season.

By Jonathan Berr Nov 20, 2012 4:47PM
The abrupt resignation today of Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash amidst allegations of sexual misconduct couldn't have come at a worse time from an economic standpoint for "Sesame Street."
Clash Tuesday announced his resignation from the beloved children's show after a second man came forward, alleging in a lawsuit that he had a sexual relationship with the performer when he was a minor. A previous accuser, Sheldon Stephens, was paid a $125,000 settlement by Clash after he recanted similar allegations, but now wants to retract his statement, according to TMZ.com.
"Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer," Clash said in a press release. "I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately."

As I have previously reported, Sesame Workshop, the non-profit that produces "Sesame Street", is struggling financially. The group reported a loss of more than $10.8 million in 2011 and earlier this year announced plans to lay off about a dozen workers, its second staff reduction since 2009.

Sesame Workshop reported more than $132 million in total operating revenue, including $46.9 million in licensing revenue for toys and other merchandise, in 2011. Elmo is by far the show's most popular character and likely accounts for most of these sales. A scandal so close to the holiday season doesn't help sales.

"Sesame Street" toys are made by Hasbro (HAS). In the company's latest quarter, it earned $206 million of its $1.39 billion in revenue from its preschool-aged business. Among the Elmo products it currently sells are Let's Rock Elmo, Elmo's Count-Along Crayons Toy and LOL Elmo.  A company spokesperson couldn't immediately be reached. The show's toys are likely big sellers for Amazon.com (AMZN), Toys `R' Us and other retailers. Not surprisingly, the toymaker is trying to strike an optimistic note.Credit: Joel Ryan/AP Photo
Caption: File photo of Elmo from Sesame Street visiting the Olympic Park in east London on Aug 10, 2012

"Sesame Street and its wonderful characters have been entertaining and educating children and families for more than 40 years," according to a Hasbro statement. "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."

Sesame Workshop has argued that Elmo is bigger than Kevin Clash, and to a certain extent that's true. Most of the "Sesame Street" young viewers won't be able to tell the difference between Elmo voiced by Clash or another talented performer. The real issue the show faces is with their parents.

To adults, Elmo and Kevin Clash may always be synonymous. This creates a huge problem if the Elmo brand is further tainted by scandal. Elmo has been an integral part of the show for decades. There are countless hours of Elmo content, and the last thing that Sesame Workshop needs is for adults to have negative feelings toward one of its characters. 

Sesame can't erase Elmo from its archives even if wanted to, which I don't think it does. What its needs, however, is create a new character that can win the hearts and minds of the world's children to make people forget about the furry, red monster. The organization has done this before but it's not going to be easy to do it again.

--Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks.  Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

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Nov 20, 2012 6:10PM
The leeches are coming out of the wood work.  Now that they know all it takes is an accusation to get some $$$.
Nov 20, 2012 8:28PM

The first young man with the accusation was a criminal. So is the second one--who waited until he was 30 to say anything because he couldn't figure out that any harm had come to him.


They are both scam artists. I don't doubt that Clash prefers young men, and it's possible that one or both of them fibbed about their ages when he met them. But, seriously, we are talking about young men of 16 or so (which is legal in many states). The word "pedophile" is not the one you want.


If Clash has been involved with a series of young hustlers, and it sounds like he has been, playing sugar daddy to young men who are either gay-for-pay or simply gold-diggers . . . well, he's lost his job. I hope he didn't waste too much of his money on these young men. It's rather sad, all around.

Nov 20, 2012 11:37PM
Hey! PeeWee Hermans STILL FUNNY! What did Elmo do WRONG! IDIOTS!
Nov 21, 2012 11:08AM
And how does this fare well for the LGBT community. They can be just as crooked as celibate priests. Now Sesame street, a family friendly brand is tainted forever. Thanks a lot H'Elmo!
Nov 20, 2012 6:31PM
hmmm....looks like Romney called it right about PBS....
Nov 21, 2012 1:36PM
I don't blame Clash.  People see dollar signs and now they'll come out of the woodwork.  I guess all you have to do is make an accusation and you'll score some cash.  The truth doesn't seem to matter anymore.
Nov 20, 2012 11:44PM
Good thing Petraeus wasn't the puppeteer! National security might be at stake because of ELMO!
I don`t feel sorry for this guy. He`s a pedophile, I don't care if this kid was of legal age. 16 to me is still a kid.  I have a son and would be mad as heck if some 47 year old man was having sex with him. 
Nov 21, 2012 2:47PM
Pedophiles often desensitize children to inappropriate touching with groping disguised as tickling. How interesting that the cultural desensitization of American begins with children through such programming as Sesame Street to a liberal 'new normal' acceptance of 'non-traditional' adult-child interactions, later exposed in both the characters and creators of popular entertainment. Pedophiles often hide in plain site within schools, churches, youth activities, etc: whereever children are accessable. 'Tickle Me Elmo' seems more and more like the alter-ego of a pedophile, to be used as a misapplied prop for bridging the barrier of personal space between children and predatory adults intent on probing for vulnerable children. For Sesame Street to merely call the claims of child molestation "a distraction" is outrageous and should be an alarm bell for parents to reject Sesame Street's programming, merchandise and their insensitivity to the entire child predation issue. Perhaps Sesame Street will just use it as a marketing opportunity to bring Elmo 'out-of-the-closet', change his color to pink and call him 'Tickle Me Homo', with a hidden compartment for 'secrets' and his pet gerbil. I was lucky to avoid sexual molestation as a child, but some of my childhood friends were victimized to a living hell of molestation and rape as children. Pedophiles are monsters, whether they molest children by gentle recruitment or violence. There should be a mandatory federal death penlty for pedophiles.
Nov 21, 2012 1:23PM
Now Trending: Pedo Bear Out. Pedo Elmo In!
Now all we need is the big bunny god in the sky to jiggle the handle... (sarcasm)

Nov 20, 2012 7:17PM
Just  because this guys a queer does not make him a criminal.......or is he a pedophile on a children's network ?
Nov 21, 2012 12:51PM
Parent's should be suspicious of anyone who likes to be around kids while they play with puppets,or dress up in a costume.
Nov 21, 2012 2:40PM
Poor Sesame Street....their image is "tainted", and all those boys have to worry about is getting raped as a teen. Good grief. The almighty buck again.
Nov 20, 2012 6:28PM

When romney made his remark about sesame street, I said something to my daughter, the psychologist.  I was shocked then, when she said that children should not be shown sesame street. I said , "But you and your brother loved it when you were kids."  She had a pained expression but didn't say anything else.

So, naturally, I googled it. Turns out that almost all the characters have serious mental disorders. You ought to check it out, I suspect that my daughter is right.

Google, "sesame street characters psychological disorders"

Nov 20, 2012 8:47PM
Oh, yeah. We love the gays. We think they should be given marriage rights, have families, adopt children. But those fa**ots and dikes. They have to go. We live in a pluaralistic society, if you can get by the punitive part.
Nov 20, 2012 7:47PM

This was bound to happen. As soon as Romney said he would fire Big Bird that was the kiss of death.

Nov 20, 2012 6:18PM
This is all Jokebama's fault. Bast*rd.
Nov 20, 2012 7:22PM
Anyone surprised that the people that work for PBS are Pedophiles ?
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