TODAY | November 21, 2012
>> to the resignation of a man who brought elmo to life on " sesame street ." kevin clash stepped down amid shocking new allegations about his personal room. washing, if you have little ones in the room be careful about watching this one. nbc's chris jansing has more on this one. good morning to you.
>> good morning. such a sad story on so many levels. kevin clack transformed elmo from a niner " sesame street " character to a superstar of children's television and a major money-maker, but this morning he's facing at least one lawsuit and lawyers for an alleged victim have contacted criminal authorities. for 28 years kevin clash was the voice and heart of " sesame street 's" iconic elmo , but on tuesday he resigned saying in a statement personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work " sesame street " is doing, and can i not allow it to go on any longer. and this morning clash is a defendant in a $5 million lawsuit that charges he trolled gay telephone chat line rooms to meet and have sex with underage boys. 24-year-old cecil singleton claims his sexual relationship with clash began nearly a decade ago when he was 15 and clash 43.
>> in retrospect, it has occurred to me as an adult how truly inappropriate my relationship with kevin was.
>> reporter: he says he was motivated to come forward after a 24-year-old made a similar allegation last week, though he later recanted.
>> since i found out that there were other people or victims in a similar circumstance i felt very guilty.
>> reporter: sesame workshop released a statement saying none of us, especially kevin , want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organization . unfortunately, the controversy surrounding ketch's personal life has become a distraction. it's a shocking turn of events for clash who just last year was the subject of a documentary, "being elmo , a puppeteer's journey." in 1996 the tickle-me- elmo doll featuring his voice became the most sought after holiday toys in history. now it's the end of a storied career clash described lovingly just months ago.
>> it's so wonderful to be a part of a show that really starts a child.
>> big financial aspect to this, too. one expert estimates wholesale sales of " sesame street " toys total $75 million a year and elmo -related product account for 55% to 75% of that, but a branding expert says with an iconic brand like elmo , people are more likely to rally behind it in a crisis rather than reject it.
>> so identified with that character. chris, thanks for the story.