NEW YORK – The puppeteer who performs as Elmo on “Sesame Street” is taking a leave of absence from the iconic kids’ show in the wake of allegations that he had a relationship with a 16-year-old boy.

Puppeteer Kevin Clash has denied the charges, which, according to Sesame Workshop, were first made in June by the accuser, who by then was 23.

“We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action,” Sesame Workshop said in a statement issued Monday. “We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation.”

The organization described the relationship as “unrelated to the workplace.” Its investigation found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated. But it said Clash exercised “poor judgment” and was disciplined for violating company policy regarding Internet usage. It offered no details.

“I had a relationship with the accuser,” Clash said in a statement of his own. “It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to characterize it as something other than what it was.”

Sex with a person under 17 is a felony in New York if the perpetrator is at least 21. It was unclear where the relationship took place, and there is no record of any criminal charge against Clash in the state.

Clash, the 52-year-old divorced father of a grown daughter, added, “I am a gay man. I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter.

“I am taking a break from Sesame Workshop to deal with this false and defamatory allegation,” he said.

Neither Clash nor Sesame Workshop indicated how long his absence might be.

“Elmo is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part of ‘Sesame Street’ to engage, educate and inspire children around the world, as it has for 40 years,” Sesame Workshop said in its statement.

“Sesame Street” is in production, but other puppeteers are prepared to fill in for Clash during his absence, according to a person close to the show who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Though usually behind the scenes as Elmo’s voice and animator, Clash, a winner of multiple Emmys, has become a star in his own right. In 2006, he published an autobiography, “My Life as a Furry Red Monster,” and was the subject of the 2011 documentary “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.”Titanic jewelry goes on display

Victoria’s Secret apologizes for headdress

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Victoria’s Secret has apologized for putting a Native American-style headdress on a model for its annual fashion show, after the outfit was criticized as a display of ignorance toward tribal culture and history.

The company responded to the complaints over the weekend by saying it was sorry to have upset anyone and that it wouldn’t include the outfit in the show’s television broadcast next month, or in any marketing materials.

“We sincerely apologize as we absolutely had no intention to offend anyone,” the company said.

Headdresses historically are a symbol of respect, worn by Native American war chiefs and warriors.

For Plains tribes, for example, each feather placed on a headdress has significance and had to be earned through an act of compassion or bravery.

Titanic jewelry goes on display

DORAVILLE, Ga. – Most of the jewelry recovered from the wreckage of the Titanic will go on public display for the first time with a three-city tour.

The jewelry is from a single purser’s bag found during a 1987 research and recovery mission. The collection includes diamond and sapphire rings, brooches, necklaces, cuff links and a gold pocket watch.

Although single pieces of the jewelry have been on display at one or more permanent and traveling exhibits sponsored by Premier Exhibitions Inc., their Atlanta debut is the first time the majority of the collection has been available to the public.

The exhibit opens Friday at Premier’s display gallery at the Atlantic Station gallery in Atlanta.

Alexandra Klingelhofer, vice president of collections for RMS Titanic Inc., said the purpose of the exhibit is to show the public the wonder of exploration.

Going down two and a half miles below the ocean, recovering a bag, bringing it back up and opening it and finding … jewelry,” Klingelhofer said. “We’re able to give them a glimpse of how it must have been to have opened that for the first time and to see, together, the beautiful jewelry of the Edwardian Period.”

Conservators and curators have been studying and preserving the jewelry to gain a better understanding of individual passengers’ lives aboard the ill-fated voyage.

“Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” opened in Atlanta earlier this year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912. Klingelhofer said this jewelry mini-exhibit is being added to provide personal insight.

After a two-month exhibit in Atlanta, the jewels will travel to Orlando, Fla., and Las Vegas.– From news service reports