LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Simon Cowell, the often brutally acerbic judge on the Fox television hit “American Idol,” insists it was an innocent posture, not an obscene gesture.
Contrary to suggestions that he was directing an insult to fellow judge Paula Abdul by putting his middle finger to the side of his face during Tuesday’s broadcast, Cowell denied flipping her the proverbial bird on prime-time TV.
“I certainly would never make a gesture like that toward Paula or on national television,” Cowell said. “Sometimes I lean on my index finger. Sometimes a different finger. Sometimes two at the same time, or, God help me, even the whole hand. I never even thought about it until now.”
Likewise, a spokesman for Fox Broadcasting Co., a unit of News Corp. Ltd., said network censors saw nothing offensive about Cowell’s hand position.
“Our standards and practices people looked at it and felt it was a completely benign body posture,” the spokesman said. “It wasn’t a gesture.”
He added that the “posture” in question, which came during the live East Coast broadcast of the show from Los Angeles Tuesday night, was “not edited or cut out” for the tape-delayed feed to the West Coast.
In any case, Cowell demonstrated once again that he was hardly at a loss for words to express himself, calling the performance of one contestant “nauseating.”
Cowell and Fox were responding to queries raised after pictures of Cowell with his middle finger to his face were widely circulated online by Internet columnist Matt Drudge.
But Drudge was not the only person who noticed the odd head-finger alignment. The Federal Communications Commission has “received a few complaints” about the incident, spokesman Richard Diamond told Reuters. The agency typically reviews such complaints to determine if an investigation is warranted.
“American Idol,” in which a group of aspiring pop stars compete on national television to win a recording contract, ranks as the most watched series on U.S. television with its Tuesday night edition averaging 26.8 million viewers this season.