Elmo and the One Recant Rule

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.


Facts: TMZ, Newser

Graphic: Geekosystem



6 thoughts on “Elmo and the One Recant Rule

  1. This reminds me of the Rick Curl situation – how a family in Maryland settled with him to keep quiet about him having sex with their young teen-aged daughter – something like sex starting at 13 lasting three years. Just prior to the Olympics, having to endure his face on the TV with credentials as an Olympic Coach, the girl now adult came forward to USA Swimming to see to it that he got removed from the poolside. Interesting case bringing up questions of the ethics of attorneys who draw up such settlement agreements where crimes are covered up. In this case, Rick Curl got away with his crime against a minor for decades. The attorneys who drew up the papers are still practicing. Who knows if he abused other girls – he most certainly had access to them. I have to see his name when I go swimming locally – on the t shirts and swim gear of the local athletes of Curl Burke Swim club. I think the club changed its name, but the gear is lingering. I wonder if I had a kid swimming for that club if I could endure having to see his name across the backs of young girls? Jack, don’t attorneys have to disclose to authorities when they suspect child abuse? Or are they protected by their profession? Teachers and health care workers are obligated to report suspected child abuse. Why don’t lawyers?

    • You can read the Rick Curl commentary here.

      You know, I’m not a potted plant. I work here. It would be nice if a commenter would check the site before alerting me to what I’ve already written about. Sorry to be cranky, but I’m really tired of it

  2. I accept your crankiness. You are right. I’ll search your site better in the future. I still have the same question. Are lawyers exempt from having to disclose child abuse to authorities? I get that you blame the parents in the Rick Curl case and in the Kennedy cover-up. So, it is legal to allow non-disclosure agreements that cover up crimes? That is what doesn’t make sense to me.

    • I’m sorry; I was in a fight with Expedia that almost cost me a vacation while I read your post. You should have to search here to comment about another incident.

      Yes, lawyers are absolutely exempt except in a few states, like Tennessee, where they are required by statute and the legal ethics rules to report. (They don’t have to report murder, just child abuse.) It’s a bad law. Lawyers have to keep their clients’ confidences, good or bad, or else they can’t be trusted. We all need a loyal, trustworthy, partisan ally to negotiate the legal system—if your own lawyer can rat you out, then nobody really has fair access to the law.

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