Fox and DeGeneres have announced the comedian and daytime talk show host has decided to "bow out" from her judging position and leave American Idol after just a single season.
"A couple months ago, I let Fox and the American Idol producers know that this didn't feel like the right fit for me," DeGeneres said in a statement released Thursday evening. "I told them I wouldn't leave them in a bind and that I would hold off on doing anything until they were able to figure out where they wanted to take the panel next."
"It was a difficult decision to make, but my work schedule became more than I bargained for. I also realized this season that while I love discovering, supporting and nurturing young talent, it was hard for me to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings. I loved the experience working on Idol and I am very grateful for the year I had. I am a huge fan of the show and will continue to be."
Fox executives thanked DeGeneres for her Idol contributions and reiterated her claim that she approached the network about leaving a couple of months ago -- and was not, as has recently been speculated, asked to leave as part of a potential plan to replace the show's entire judging panel in light of Simon Cowell's exit -- in their own statements.
"It was a joy to work with Ellen," said Mike Darnell, the network's reality programming chief. "She brought an incredible spirit to Idol and was a great new addition to the team. While we're saddened by her decision, we are very appreciative that she gave us ample notice so that we could work through it together."
"We love Ellen and understand and support her decision to bow out of Idol," Fox chief Peter Rice said. "We were fortunate to receive the humor, energy and love for talent that she brought to the show."
Idol's producers also said they will miss her.
"I loved Ellen's passion for the artists and her nurturing skills," Idol creator and executive producer Simon Fuller said. "She brought honesty and optimism to our judging panel and I will miss her greatly."
"We will miss Ellen, she has been the consummate professional throughout her time on the show, and she'll always be part of the American Idol family," executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz added.
Rumors that American Idol may be replacing its entire judging panel have surged since multiple reports that former Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe -- who left the show in 2008 to focus on So You Think You Can Dance -- is near a deal to return to the show surfaced on Monday.
"I'd lose the fourth judge, I don't like four judges. I'd keep Ryan Seacrest and probably change the whole panel," Lythgoe told the New York Post in March.
"I would replace the entire judging panel," he told Zap2it in April. "I don't think it really works replacing one person. They don't have a great deal of chemistry at the moment. Ryan and Simon have fallen out. It's uncomfortable to watch. Ellen hasn't worked out as well as we would have hoped."
DeGeneres joinedAmerican Idol last September -- after the show had already conducted its nationwide ninth-season callback auditions for the judging panel without her -- under what was reportedly a five-year contract.
She had pledged to provide a different type of feedback than Idol viewers were used to but appeared uncomfortable criticizing the contestants and frequently resorted to making jokes instead.
"I'm the people's point of view, because I'm just like you," she said when her Idol addition was announced. "I sit at home and I watch it. I don't have that technical... I'm not looking at it in a critical way from the music producer's mind. I'm looking at it as a person who's going to buy the music and who's going to relate to that person."
While Jackson is already under contract for the upcoming season via the last year of an earlier agreement, Idol has reportedly not formally exercised its tenth-season contract option on DioGuardi yet.
(Photo credit Fox)
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