"It's been an incredible opportunity to pilot this wonderful franchise," Stewart said at the close of the episode. "Seventeen years is the longest I have ever in my life held a job, by 16 years and five months ... In my heart, I know it is time for someone else to have that opportunity."
The announcement drew gasps from the audience, as well as applause, as Stewart fought back his emotions. He called his role with the show "the honor of my professional life."