Steve Whitmire, the voice of Kermit the Frog for 27 years
, isn't going away quietly.
The 57-year-old puppeteer was fired in October
from his job as voicing Kermit the Frog over what the studio is calling "repeated unacceptable business conduct" that was over "a period of many years." Whitmire appeared on the Today
show on Thursday, and said the decision completely blindsided him.
"I was stunned, it seemed like about five seconds of silence," Whitmire says about receiving the call that he would no longer voice the beloved Muppet. "And I had had no advance warning on that. Nothing had ever been framed to me as a career-breaking problem, you know."
"In fact, we had be talking prior to that, for two years before that, about me being sort of a creative producer with them, working alongside the two executives whom I spoke with, where I would have been really part of the day to day decision making on the the Muppets," he continues. "And I was thrilled about that."
In a taped interview response, Cheryl Henson -- Jim Henson Co. board member and daughter of the late Muppets creator -- claims Whitmire was "very difficult" to work with.
"It's been many years of being difficult, in particularly for the producers," Henson said. "He's not Kermit, he was a performer that was hired to do Kermit... there's a difference."
Whitmire disputes that he was difficult to work with, and claims the reason he was let go is because he was "outspoken."
"I offered notes," he says. "I don't think that makes someone difficult."
Still, in a statement, the puppeteer said he was "willing to do whatever is required" to get his role back. Though in his interview on Thursday, he admitted that he doesn't think it's going to happen.
"I have remained silent the last nine months in hopes that Disney company might reverse their course," his statement reads. "Given the opportunity I will remain willing to do whatever is required to remedy their concerns, because I feel my continued involvement with the characters is the best interest of the Muppets."
Kermit will now be voiced by longtime show veteran Matt Vogel.