NEW YORK (AP) — The longtime performer of Kermit the Frog says Disney's decision to fire him from the role came as "a complete shock."

Appearing on NBC's "Today" show Thursday, Steve Whitmire also pushed back on claims from the Muppets Studio that Whitmire's "repeated unacceptable business conduct" over many years was to blame for his dismissal. Disney owns the Muppets Studio.

Whitmire says he'd been outspoken about keeping the Muppets characters consistent because "their longevity is completely based on their consistency. ... Otherwise, it's not Kermit or any of the Muppets at all."

Whitmire was informed of the decision in October. He says he refrained from speaking out in the hopes that the studio would reconsider.