Allegations of sex with a 16-year-old boy have temporarily forced out the man responsible for voicing one of the most beloved Sesame Street characters of all time.

Kevin Clash, who has been the iconic voice of Elmo for the past 28 years, stands accused of engaging in a sexual relationship with an underage teen — allegations Clash denies.

Though he admits to having a relationship with his accuser — now 23 — Clash told TMZ the man was of legal age at the time. "It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to make it into something it was not," Clash is quoted as saying.

Officials at Sesame Workshop, who have met with the unidentified accuser at least twice, stand by Clash, insisting that no evidence has been produced thus far to prove the claims.

"Kevin insists that these allegations are false and defamatory and he has taken actions to protect his reputation," Workshop reps said in a statement. "We have granted him a leave of absence to do so."

For his part, the accuser has sought the legal assistance of Andreozzi and Associates, best known for representing one of Jerry Sandusky's victims.

According to Andreozzi, Sesame is attempting to "discredit the victim in order to protect its employee and the image of one of its most valuable characters. This approach places a greater value on a puppet than the well being of a young man."

[photo via AP]