Breaking News Emails
Jim Henson's daughter has joined the bitter battle over the firing of the Kermit the Frog puppeteer, saying the man who gave voice to the beloved amphibian turned the iconic children's character into "a bitter, angry, depressed victim."
In response to a blog post last week, in which ex-Kermit puppeteer Steve Whitmire said he had been “devastated” by his termination, Jim Henson’s daughter Cheryl Henson reportedly posted on Facebook saying his story was “ridiculously self serving [sic].”
“Steve’s performance of Kermit has strayed far away from my father’s good hearted [sic], compassionate leader of the Muppets,” Cheryl Henson, who is a Jim Henson Company board member, wrote. “Steve performed Kermit as a bitter, angry, depressed victim.”
Cheryl Henson went on to say that Whitmire's portrayal was no longer “funny or fun,” and that re-casting the character was long overdue. A screenshot of Henson's Facebook post was published by Deadline and NBC News could not independently verify the writing.
The Muppets Studio also issued a response to Whitmire’s blog post, saying he was told about Kermit’s recasting in October because of his “unacceptable business conduct.” The studio did not expand on what qualified as unacceptable conduct, but said it spanned "a period of many years," adding that "he consistently failed to address" his employers' feedback.
Whitmire had been with the Muppets since 1978, and took over as Kermit after the death of founder Jim Henson in 1990. In the Facebook post, Cheryl Henson said it was her brother, Brian, who asked Whitmire to take on the role of Kermit.
Brian Henson, now the company's chairman, told The New York Times that Whitmire often sent emails attacking writers, directors and others involved in Muppets projects.
On Wednesday, Whitmire addressed Cheryl Henson's Facebook post on his blog.
"I love Jim as a friend and mentor, while Cheryl loves him as a father," Whitmire wrote. "Don’t judge her emotional posts too harshly. I hope all of you and Cheryl, too, can understand that being outspoken about these very character issues to the top creative executives on the ABC series is at the core of the number one issue stated to me for my termination by The Muppets Studios."
Hours before he acknowledged the Facebook post, Whitmire again took to his blog, recounting Jim Henson’s negotiations over performers with the Disney Company during the filming of “Muppet Vision 3D” in 1990, and seemingly suggested the Muppet creator was the influence behind his "business conduct."
“Muppet Vision 3D” is a Walt Disney theme-park attraction, which is believed to be the final project Jim Henson worked on before his death in May of 1990. The attraction opened the following year.
During the filming of the project, the Muppets creator was “horrified” when an executive told him that if one actor wouldn’t accept an offer, the company would simply move on to the next person, Whitmire wrote.
Whitmire said he was one of two actors who had not agreed upon a deal prior to the attraction’s filming, and when attorneys threatened to halt production due to the unsigned contracts, Henson sided with his performers.
Henson didn’t “tell me that my ‘business conduct was unacceptable’ … accuse me of ‘brinkmanship’ … fire me without an ultimatum for holding up his production,” Whitmire said, using the Muppets Studio’s phrasing against them.
Whitmire said after apologizing to Henson, the Muppet creator told him he didn’t want him to sign a contract he was uncomfortable with.
He closed the post saying, "I miss him so much ..."