The sniping from American Idol judge Simon Cowell toward Idol runner-up Clay Aiken may have begun during American Idol 2, but it clearly isn't over yet. Entertainment Weekly (subscription required) reports that Simon dismisses Clay's chart success compared to Idol winner Ruben Studdard -- and even his platinum single -- as merely a consequence of Clay's decision to cover Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

Said Simon, "'If Ruben had had 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' on his record, he'd have had the No. 1. I think that was the hit song. If you asked 100 record buyers who bought Clay's single 'What song did you want to buy?' I wouldn't be surprised if 70 percent at least said 'Bridge Over Troubled Water.' People will disagree, but that's my opinion.'' During Idol, Simon had dismissed the featured side of Clay's single, "This Is The Night," as "''American Idol: The Musical."

For his part, Clay doesn't want to get involved in yet another Clay-versus-Ruben battle. ''The whole country wants Ruben and me to be at each other's throats. We spent nine months competing with each other. And we both got what we wanted. He's got a title, and I'm nothing but proud of him." Makes sense to us.

We have no way of knowing what portion of Simon's comments were motivated by his real opinion and what portion were motivated by his desire to protect his reputation, since Entertainment Weekly notes that he seemed to favor Ruben consistently during the latter stages of Idol. However, we find ourselves in the awkward position of simultaneously agreeing and disagreeing with Simon.

As we reported here, "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has indeed become the featured side of Clay's single, at least in our opinion as well as Simon's -- and in the opinion of Nielsen SoundScan, which has been listing "Bridge" as the featured side for several weeks. On the other hand, any hit is due to both song selection AND performance, and "Bridge" (like many of the songs associated with Art Garfunkel) fits comfortably into Clay's style and range of singing but doesn't appear to fit Ruben's.

We detect a slight aroma of sour grapes eminating from the direction of Simon Cowell ... a sensation that is strengthened by reading Simon's characterization of Clay as "the geeky little kid who went on to win over the hearts of America through a singing competition." We tend to think that such a characterization could also be applied to Mr. Cowell himself.