Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The rush to judgment...

This stuff doesn't happen on Sesame Street. It almost sounded like an episode of The Good Wife or another courtroom drama.

Earlier this week, reports surfaced that Kevin Clash, the award-winning creator and voice of parental-savior-and-scourge Elmo, had taken a leave of absence from Sesame Street because of allegations that seven years ago, he had an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old boy. (To the surprise of no one, these allegations were first published on gossip wasteland TMZ.)

Clash, who is gay, did not deny the relationship, but asserted that it did not happen until the individual reached the age of 18. Sesame Street did a thorough investigation and believed the allegations were unsubstantiated. But sources said the accuser was never able to produce any proof of the relationship starting before he reached the age of consent.

One day later, Clash's accuser recanted his statement. Andreozzi & Associates, a law firm that said it represented the anonymous accuser, said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon that "he wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship." The statement added, "He will have no further comment on the matter."

I said when I first heard the news, and I continue to believe that Clash's career at Sesame Street is over. And that saddens me. What a boy raised poor in the inner city of Baltimore was able to create through hard work, dreams, and exceptional talent is amazing.

But what happened to innocent until proven guilty? While the prospect of Clash having a relationship with a 16-year-old at age 45 certainly was troublesome, it was just that: an allegation. Is that all that is needed in a post-Sandusky society? I realize TMZ has no standards when it publishes material, but shouldn't there be some responsibility about publishing unproven allegations?

A rumor is all it takes, apparently. But why is the accuser allowed to remain anonymous after he recanted his story?

As Dan Bucatinsky, an actor, producer, screenwriter, and the author of Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight?, a memoir about being a gay father, said in a BuzzFeed article,
"As a dad, I think teenagers should discover their sexualities and experiment with relationships with peers rather than grown adults who are inherently in positions of power and influence." But, Bucatinsky wrote in an email, "If it's true they were two consenting adults, it's really nobody's business. So is this really about 'Is it okay for someone who works on Sesame Street to be gay?' The answer is yes."
Ultimately, that is the question. I don't think Sesame Street, already the target of backlash for its supposedly liberal views toward equality and diversity, will allow the distraction of keeping Clash on the show in a day-to-day role. I do think Clash showed poor judgment, knowing that in his role he primarily interacts with children and young people in large numbers, and in many circumstances, bad judgment is all it takes to lose your job.

I hope to be proven wrong here. I don't know Clash personally, but this whole situation saddens me a bit.

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