Steve Whitmire, who voiced Kermit the Frog for 27 years, said on the Today show Thursday morning that he was fired from the job by Muppets Studios for being “outspoken.”
When asked if he was difficult to work with, Whitmire said, “I offered notes, I don’t think that makes someone difficult. It was totally an idea of trying to do what was best for the Muppets.”
He previously addressed this in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, where he said, “The first issue was that they felt I had been ‘disrespectful’ in being outspoken on character issues with the small group of top creative people during the ABC series. I have been outspoken about what’s best for the Muppets since the Muppets came to Disney [in 2004], but the fact is I have respect for everyone who was involved in the creation of that series for their own particular contributions. At the same time, I also have insight into their limitations with respect to how well they know the Muppets.”
On the Today show, Whitmire also revealed he “had had no advance warning” of the decision to let him go, and said they had actually talked about making him a “creative producer.”
“Nothing had ever been framed to me as a career-breaking problem,” he said, later explaining that the studio wanted him to frame this as “I moved on, and I retired.”
“It was disingenuous,” he said. “I couldn’t bring myself to do it.”
In a statement released after Whitmire’s THR interview was published, a spokesperson for the Muppets studio said, “The role of Kermit the Frog is an iconic one that is beloved by fans and we take our responsibility to protect the integrity of that character very seriously. We raised concerns about Steve’s repeated unacceptable business conduct over a period of many years and he consistently failed to address the feedback. The decision to part ways was a difficult one which was made in consultation with the Henson family and has their full support.”
Matt Vogel is taking on the role of Kermit the Frog now and is set to make his debut this week. Watch Whitmire’s Today interview above.