Filling Simon Cowell‘s seat on American Idol was already a tough task now another chair is there for the taking.
Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who became a full-time judge on the show during its ninth season, is bowing out of the series, PEOPLE has learned.
“A couple months ago, I let FOX and the American Idol producers know that this didn’t feel like the right fit for me,” she says in a statement. “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.”
DeGeneres adds, “I also realized this season that while I love discovering, supporting and nurturing young talent, it was hard for me to judge 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.”
In the same statement, Idol creator and executive producer Simon Fuller says, “I loved Ellen’s passion for the artists and her nurturing skills. She brought honesty and optimism to our judging panel and I will miss her greatly.”
Peter Rice, the FOX entertainment chairman, says, “We love Ellen and understand and support her decision to bow out of Idol. We were fortunate to receive the humor, energy and love for talent that she brought to the show.”
A longtime fan of Idol, DeGeneres signed on toreplace Paula Abdul after Abdul Tweeted about her departure in August 2009. “I’m going to have a day job and a night job,” DeGeneres said at the time. “This is exciting for me.”
In January, Cowell announced he was leaving to concentrate on bringing his U.K. hit The X Factor to the U.S. — Cynthia Wang
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