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DeGeneres to leave 'American Idol,' cites 'a difficult decision'

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Ellen votes herself off 'American Idol'
  • Ellen DeGeneres is departing "American Idol"
  • She says it was hard to judge contestants and "sometimes hurt their feelings"
  • DeGeneres replaced longtime judge Paula Abdul

(CNN) -- Ellen DeGeneres is calling it quits after spending one season with the Fox hit "American Idol," according to a statement from the star and the network.

DeGeneres said she notified Fox and "American Idol" producers a "couple months ago" that the show wasn't the right fit for her.

"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," she said. "I loved the experience ... and I am very grateful for the year I had. I am a huge fan of the show and will continue to be."

Fox and "Idol" executives said DeGeneres' presence will be missed on the show.

"I loved Ellen's passion for the artists and her nurturing skills," said "Idol" creator Simon Fuller. "She brought honesty and optimism to our judging panel and I will miss her greatly."

The 51-year-old comedian replaced Paula Abdul when the singing competition resumed for a ninth year in January. Abdul left the show after eight years over contract disagreements.

DeGeneres, who continued to host her syndicated daily talk show, loves music and is a huge fan of "Idol." When she took the job she said she aimed to bring compassion and empathy to the show, qualities Abdul was known for.

"I'm not going to be mean. I hate when Simon [Cowell] is that mean," DeGeneres said, referring to the notorious judge.

"You can be constructive and criticize somebody. That's helpful, instead of mean-spirited."

Earlier this year, Cowell said he'll be leaving the popular talent show at the end of the season.

iReport: Share your view on "Idol" changes

In a March interview with TV Guide Magazine, DeGeneres talked about her role on the show and the part she'll play in picking Cowell's successor.

"Oh yeah," DeGeneres said in response to a question as to whether she gets a vote on who replaces Cowell. "That was part of [what was discussed] when I came in. Cause we all had a suspicion that Simon might leave. Nobody knew for sure, but we made sure that I'd have a big [say] because that's important to me."

DeGeneres first gained fame in stand-up comedy and acting roles in several movies and television sitcoms. She also has hosted the prime-time Emmy Awards and the Academy Awards.

The show added Kara DioGuardi, a songwriter and music industry executive, as a judge during the eighth season.

In May, Katherine L. Meizel, author of the forthcoming book "Idolized: Music, Media, and Identity in 'American Idol' " and a writer for Slate's "Idolatry" column, said there is a sense that people are "abandoning ship" on the show with the departure of Abdul, as well as music director Ricky Minor and Cowell at the end of this season.

"When things start changing drastically, it right away makes people feel less connected," Meizel said.

Since its premiere in 2002, "Idol" has been an entertainment phenomenon, regularly ranking as TV's top show, creating several musical stars and pulling in millions more viewers than its closest competition.