Fox reality chief Mike Darnell has confirmed that Joanna Pacitti was disqualified as an American Idol eighth-season Top 36 semifinalist due to her previous relationships with two executives at one of the show's production companies.

"Unfortunately, it was just a perceptional problem, that there [was] just too close a connection between [Pacitti and the employees], we felt," Darnell told The Los Angeles Times in a Friday interview.

"I think it was handled correctly."

Minutes after the conclusion of the West Coast broadcast of last Wednesday night's "Final Judgment" episode in which Idol's judges were shown informing Pacitti that she had made the eighth season's Top 36 semifinals, Fox released a statement that she had been determined to be "ineligible to continue in the competition."

Since both Fox and Idol's producers were already aware of Pacitti's prior professional experience and openly acknowledged it during eighth-season broadcasts, speculation immediately focused on a recent Star magazine report that the singer has "connections" to two executives at 19 Entertainment, which is run by Idol creator Simon Fuller and produces the show with FremantleMedia North America.

While Fox remained mum on the reason behind Pacitti's disqualification, Idol host Ryan Seacrest subsequently stated producers found "some sort of a link that, somewhere along the line, could be construed as one that's close to the competition, and they didn't want to risk it."

Producers replaced Pacitti with Felicia Barton, a 26-year-old wife and mother from Virginia Beach, VA, in the season's Top 36 semifinals.

"A replacement was made as a producorial and judge choice. Simple as that," Darnell told The Times, defending the addition of Barton instead of fan favorite Jamar Rogers.

"It had to be a girl, obviously," explained Darnell to The Times. "We got a lot of e-mails about Jamar. Even if we had thought to do that -- I don't know that we would have -- it wouldn't have been a boy."