Recently, longtime Kermit The Frog puppeteer Steve Whitmire confirmed that he had been fired by Disney and The Muppets Studio a few months back, citing “two stated issues” as the supposed cause without explaining what those issues actually were. Now, both sides have shared more information about what was happening behind the scenes to The Hollywood Reporter, and it turns out that the two issues were “a union dispute” and a general pattern of behavior from Whitmire that—depending on who you listen to—was either “overly hostile and unproductive” or passionately protective of Kermit’s legacy.
As Whitmire tells it, a “small group” of people on the short-lived ABC Muppets series thought he was being “disrespectful” by giving them “unwanted notes” on things that he thought Kermit The Frog would or would not do. For instance, he took issue with an episode in which Kermit lied to his nephew, Robin, about his big breakup with Miss Piggy, saying that Kermit is “too compassionate” to do anything but sit Robin down and tell him the truth. Whitmire believes that he was acting in the best interests of The Muppets as characters, and he thinks part of the reason the show got canceled is because the people working on it didn’t trust the input of performers like him.
In a statement, The Muppets Studio claims that it was the one trying to “protect the integrity” of Kermit The Frog, saying it “raised concerns about Steve’s repeated unacceptable business conduct over a period of many years,” but he ignored the concerns and “failed to address the feedback.” The studio also notes that it made the decision to fire Whitmire after consulting with the Henson family and receiving their “full support.”
As for the union dispute, Whitmire says Disney framed it as him “refusing to work on a particular project,” but in actuality it was some kind of contract issue with the Screen Actors Guild about him working on an unnamed project and an associated commercial. Whatever that issue was didn’t get worked out, but Whitmire still doesn’t think that was a big enough deal to fire him. Disney and The Muppet Studio, meanwhile, say it wasn’t just these one or two things, but problems that “went on for many years.”