Ellen DeGeneres Leaving ‘American Idol’

After only one year behind the judges’ table on “American Idol,” Ellen DeGeneres is leaving the show.

“A couple months ago, I let FOX and the ‘American Idol’ producers know that this didn’t feel like the right fit for me,” Ellen said in a statement issued to Access Hollywood on Thursday. “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.”

The talk show host and comedienne revealed that she didn’t come to the decision lightly.

“It was a difficult decision to make, but my work schedule became more than I bargained for,” her statement continued. “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.”

Although she is leaving, Ellen said she is thankful for the experience.

“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,” her statement concluded.

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Ellen’s announcement comes just two days after a report in The Hollywood Reporter surfaced suggesting that original “American Idol” executive producer, and current “So You Think You Can Dance” judge and executive producer, Nigel Lythgoe, was being coaxed back to the FOX juggernaut, two years after he left the fold.

While Nigel, FOX and FremantleMedia have had no comment on the report, there were rumors that if the Brit returned to the show which he helped make a ratings blockbuster, the entire “Idol” judging panel, minus perhaps Randy Jackson, could be replaced.

“They feel that they can tweak the format, but unless they do something as dramatic as replacing some of the judges, I don’t know if that would really register as a big overhaul of ‘Idol’ — a fresh feeling,” Kim Masters, a writer at The Hollywood Reporter, told Access earlier this week.

Nigel himself had even suggested a break-up of the judging group, previously telling Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush he wasn’t a fan of the move — following his departure — to add four judges.

“I’ve never supported four judges,” Nigel said. “You know, I think once you’ve heard [the criticism] ‘You suck!’ once, you don’t need to hear it another three times, to be honest.”

Ellen’s move is also surprising because she recently told AccessHollywood.com’s Laura Saltman that she would be around for some time.

“I signed a long contract that says lots of things and I remember seeing five years on there,” she previously said.

Randy still has time on his contract, but Kara DioGuardi has a year-to-year deal, which has yet to be renewed, although she told Access last week that she was ready to take on Season 10.

“I’m not getting butterflies as much as I was, but I’m ready to find new talent,” Kara said.

The news will no doubt come as a surprise to Randy, who told Access last week that he expected to see Ellen at the auditions round for Season 10 – something Access had asked about.

“I’m sure she will,” he said, referring to Ellen taking part in the audition rounds. “She didn’t come on until later on. So, I’m sure she will this time.”

While Ellen’s departure was a surprise, a host of names to replace judge Simon Cowell, who exited the show in May, have been bandied about, including Harry Connick Jr., Chris Isaak, Elton John and Justin Timberlake.

On Thursday, however, yet another name surfaced – Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.

Access Hollywood confirmed that the rocker has met with “American Idol” reps on “several occasions,” a source close to the singer said. There was no word, however, on whether he was close to making a deal for one of the open judges’ chairs.

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