When we last left the sad saga of Kevin Clash, the Muppets puppeteer whose voice and hands give cute little Elmo his panache, the 23-year-old man who had accused Clash of having underage sex with him had recanted, agreeing with Clash’s defense that their relationship was consummated later, when both were consenting adults. I opined that this would do little to rescue Clash’s career, as the most innocent Muppet on Sesame Street could not survive being operated by a man who was now associated with gay sex, consensual of not. This likely result seemed unfair to Clash, but is nonetheless a responsible decision on the part of Clash’s employers, the Children’s Television Workshop, whose duty is to their mission and core audience, not to one unmasked Muppet.
Clash’s prospects have not improved. It was revealed last week that the recant was bought and paid for by Clash, who handed Sheldon Stephens $125,000 to deny his previous accusation and never to raise it again. Needless to say, a recant induced by monetary compensation is not a reliable one, and leaves as many questions open as the original claim, if not more. In a settlement, the accuser is paid to drop any legal action, but doesn’t agree to retract the original claim. What Clash did is called “buying testimony,” or ” a pay-off.”
It makes him look more guilty, not less.
Now we learn that Stephens, perhaps in anticipation of a run for the Presidency, has flip-flopped again. He says he was pressured into accepting the deal, and is willing to give back the money, because he was sexually molested by Clash when he was 16, just as he said originally.
That tolls the Ethics Alarms two recant rule, which states that after an individual takes back his first recant, he is officially and forever not to be believed about approximately anything, especially the subject of the first recant. In Stephens’ case, we don’t even have to raise an eyebrow at his questionable character as a struggling actor with multiple arrests on his record, including one for robbing a former employer at knife point. He’s untrustworthy. He could be telling the truth, he could be lying, he could be mentally unstable.
But Clash still paid him to change his story, and Elmo’s alter-ego’s reputation is beyond repair.
We are back to where we started.