US gay actor Kevin Clash who provides the voice of Elmo in Sesame Street is on a leave of absence from the iconic children’s series after denying he had underage sex.

According to CNN, the show says it found the allegation against Kevin Clash, dating back to several years ago, “unsubstantiated,” and granted him leave as he takes “actions to protect his reputation.”

The age of consent in the US is either 16 or 18 depending on the state.

Clash admitted to TMZ that he and the individual had sex, but only after he was above the age of consent.

On Monday, the show released a statement saying: “We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action. We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation. We also conducted a thorough investigation and found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated.

“Although this was a personal relationship unrelated to the workplace, our investigation did reveal that Kevin exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding internet usage and he was disciplined.”

The statement added: “Kevin insists that the allegation of underage conduct is false and defamatory and he is taking actions to protect his reputation. We have granted him a leave of absence to do so.

“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.”

Clash has been the voice and puppeteer for Elmo for the past 28 years.