Getting in just under the wire before the Thanksgiving onslaught of football viewing, “The Insider” on Wednesday night aired the first interview with the first man who claimed Kevin Clash, the former Elmo puppeteer for “Sesame Street,” had a sexual relationship with him when he was a minor.

“The whole world reacted in such a negative way, and they haven’t really gotten a chance to know who I am and to even ask the right questions to figure out what kind of person I am,” Sheldon Stephens, now 24, said on the broadcast of the CBS syndicated tabloid show that will soon be renamed “omg! Insider.”

“Rather, they reacted off of hearsay and rumor and speculation of the whole situation,” Stephens said, adding, “The biggest misconception about me is that I’m a liar, extortionist.”

Stephens claimed he had sexual relations with Clash, 52, when he was just 16, causing Sesame Workshop, which produces the show for PBS, to put Clash on leave.

Not long after, Stephens’s lawyer issued a statement to the New York Times, saying his client’s relationship with the Baltimore-area native who had been a “Sesame Street” puppeteer since the ’80s, was “adult” and “consensual.”

FElmo puppeteer Kevin Clash poses with the “Sesame Street” muppet in the Fender Music Lodge during the 2011 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Victoria Will/AP)

But some publications began reporting that Stephens got a $125,000 cash payment to change his story. And Web site TMZ has since reported that Stephens wanted to recant his recantation; other publications have picked that up, too.

Since Stephens came forward, he’s been overshadowed by a second man who has sued Clash in federal court, claiming the puppeteer engaged in sexual behavior with him when he was 15; Cecil Singleton, now 24, is seeking $5 million in damages.

At a news conference Tuesday, Singleton said he was “shocked” when he learned, years later, that Clash worked on the beloved PBS children’s show, CBS News reported.

Clash resigned from Sesame Workshop on Tuesday.

Lohan vs. Leno

Lindsay Lohan sat down with Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show” Tuesday while Barbara Walters gnashed her teeth, maybe.

“The timing wasn’t right, right now. I love her; I’m a big fan. . . . I met her when I was very young. And so, when it’s right, she knows she’ll be the first person I sit down with,” Lohan told Leno. With whom she was, you know, sitting down.

“I should live so long,” Babs snarked the next morning on her gaggle “The View,” taking the high road in losing her already-announced interview with Lohan, after LiLo’s new wrangler decided to take Lohan in a less Babsian, more play-straight-woman-to-my-Photoshopped-tabloid-cover-gag direction.

Lohan is a hot interview these days as she promotes her starring role in Lifetime’s Elizabeth Taylor biopic, “Liz & Dick,” airing Sunday.

“Every time I open the paper, there’s another story about you,” Leno began, setting up his tabloid mag routine.

“That’s the question every time I come here!” wailed/giggled Lohan.

“I know — but that’s why we have you here all the time!” Leno shot back.


Leno - 1

Lohan - 0.

Leno showed her a tabloid cover with the headline “Lindsay Lohan Pregnant” and an altered photo of Lohan sporting a baby bump.

“It’s actually funny because I have heard that before!” Lohan marveled, adding critically of the photo job at the time, “They kind of gave my stomach a baby bump. . . . I didn’t look like I was pregnant anywhere else!”

“Well, it kinda starts . . . well, whatever,” Leno cracked.

Updated score:

Leno - 2

Lohan - 0.

Then Leno showed her a tabloid cover in which New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow confessed he’d lost his virginity to Lohan.

“I’ve never met him,” Lohan giggled.

“He’s got that whole ‘virgin’ thing going on,” Leno began.

“Well, that’s great for him,” Lohan said composedly.

“Is that weird to you?” Leno persevered.

“No — it’s a personal preference. I respect that,” Lohan replied.

“Oh, okay,” Leno said, disappointed.

Updated score:

Leno – 2

Lohan – 1.

And, finally, Leno showed her a mag cover with the headline “Lindsay Adopts Honey Boo Boo.”

“Any truth to this?” Leno asked.

“All my friends always talk about ‘Honey Boo Boo’ — I’ve never actually seen the show. I just know what I hear. That is so funny — what is that picture from?” Lohan said gamely, resisting the urge to clobber Leno over the head with one of her heels, for which we’re going to award her four more points.

“Well, that is from when you were going to adopt her!” Leno responded. “You think this stuff is Photoshopped?”

Final score:

Leno – 2

Lohan – 5

Lohan wins.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to tvblog.