A man who accused a Sesame Street puppeteer of having underage sex with him has recanted his story.

In a quick turnabout, the man on Tuesday described his sexual relationship with Kevin Clash, who performs the Elmo character on the US show, as adult and consensual.

Clash responded with a statement of his own, saying he is "relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest".

The man, who has not identified himself, released his statement through his lawyers.

Sesame Workshop, which produces Sesame Street in New York, said: "We are happy that Kevin can move on from this unfortunate episode."

The whirlwind episode began on Monday morning, when Sesame Workshop announced that Clash had taken a leave of absence from Sesame Street in the wake of allegations that he had had a relationship with a 16-year-old.

Clash, a 52-year-old divorced father of a grown daughter, denied the charges of his accuser, who is in his early 20s.

In that statement, Clash acknowledged that he was gay but said the relationship had been between two consenting adults.

Though it remained unclear where the relationship took place, sex with a person under 17 is a felony in New York if the perpetrator is at least 21.

'False and defamatory allegation'

Sesame Workshop, which said it was first contacted by the accuser in June, had launched an investigation that included meeting with the accuser twice and meeting with Clash.

Its investigation found the charge of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated.

Clash had said on Monday he would take a break from Sesame Workshop "to deal with this false and defamatory allegation".

Neither Clash nor Sesame Workshop indicated on Tuesday when he might return to the show, on which he has played the Elmo character since 1984.

Elmo had previously been a marginal character, but Clash, supplying the fuzzy red puppet with a high-pitched voice and a carefree, child-like personality, launched the character into major stardom.

Elmo soon rivaled Big Bird as the face of Sesame Street.

Though usually behind the scenes, Clash meanwhile achieved his own measure of fame.

In 2006, he published an autobiography, "My Life as a Furry Red Monster," and he was the subject of the 2011 documentary "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey."

Source: Agencies