Steve Whitmire, the voice behind Kermit the Frog for the past 27 years, is speaking out for the first time since being fired by Disney in October.
During an appearance on the “Today” show Thursday morning, the 57-year-old “The Muppets” puppeteer reveals he was “stunned” upon hearing about his dismissal over the phone nearly nine months ago. “It seemed like it was about five minutes of silence,” he recalls. “I had no advance warning.”
Whitmire explains that the show offered him various forms of “consolation prizes” to keep him quiet, including a Disney legend award. “What they wanted was for me to frame this as I moved on and that I had retired,” he says. “And it was just disingenuous. I couldn’t bring myself to do it.”
Since Whitmire opened up about being fired in a personal blog post last week, The Muppets Studio has told The Hollywood Reporter in the statement that he was dismissed over “unacceptable business conduct” and an “overly hostile and unproductive” communication style.
Cheryl Henson, daughter of “Muppets” creator Jim Henson, has also claimed in a Facebook post, according to Page Six, that Whitmire “performed Kermit as a bitter, angry depressed victim” and his firing was “long overdue.”
Speaking on Thursday morning, Whitmire says, “Nobody likes having these sharp-pointed adjectives thrown at them.” He adds, “The reason I’m gone is because I was outspoken […] I offered notes. I don’t think that makes someone difficult.”
When asked if he would ever want to reprise the role of the iconic green muppet, Whitmire says, “I still would like to hope that. I don’t think it’s going to happen now.” According to EW, the role has since been passed on to “Sesame Street” regular Matt Vogel.