Clash never denied the relationship, particularly after a sexual email that he sent to the unnamed man surfaced. What was of question, until today, was the age of the young man, who said he was under 18 at the time the relationship began. Clash was put on leave from Sesame Street (took some time off) to clear up the mess.
Today, Fox News is reporting that the accuser has recanted his statement, clarifying that he was indeed an adult when he and Clash met.
However, as they say, the damage has already been done. Since the news broke, media personalities haven't been shy with their opinions about the appropriateness of Clash's personal life. "As much as Clash's life off of Sesame Street is certainly his own to live, it is hard not to hold him, as a children's educator, to a higher standard," writes Tim Graham at News Busters.
What Graham is really saying, underneath the claim of a separate 'standard', is that Clash's relationship with another man is inappropriate for young audiences. Ultimately, what Clash's relationship fuels are existing perceptions about gay men as predators of children and heightens preexisting advocacy to keep Sesame Street away from issues of sexuality.
Last year in a grassroots and cheeky petition for the show to marry longtime 'best friends' Burt and Ernie, voices similar to Graham's added moral verdict to the debate over the welfare of children. "Suggesting that 'Sesame Street' introduce (or in this case, reintroduce) a gay couple to help gay and lesbian children feel good about themselves is insane, since I doubt many of the 'Sesame Street' audience is gay," Times Record News columnist Lana Sweeten-Shults wrote.
Perhaps the intricacies of Clash's affair aren't prime material for afternoon play time, but to insinuate that Clash, as a child educator, must maintain a heterosexually centered moral standard is a mere reflection of routine conservative strategy of prevention through denial. By not exposing our young people to the issues surrounding sexuality, conservatives believe, young people will be less inclined to explore those complexities in favor of a more homogenous and 'traditional' value system. The conduit for the attack, in this case Clash, is different but the current of conservatism and puritanism is the same.
Let me hear your voice. How should we respond to the scandal over Clash's affair? Should Clash's private life stay as such? Or, as the most famous puppet master behind Jim Henson, is he just too risque for young audiences?