Simon Cowell, 'American Idol' explain brow raising misunderstanding
By Christopher Rocchio, 04/18/2007
Simon Cowell raises his eyebrows so frequently during American Idol broadcasts, it was bound to eventually create some controversy.
Following Chris Richardson's rendition of "Mayberry" during last night's live Top 7 performance episode, Cowell commented that the 22-year-old sang the country tune "nasally." Richardson retorted that "Nasally is a form of singing" and implied that he meant for his rendition to sound the way it did.
However after questioning Richardson several times to make sure "it was intentional," Fox cameras caught Cowell raising his eyebrows and rolling his eyes while the Chesapeake, VA-native said, "My heart and prayers go out to Virginia Tech. I have a lot of friends over there. Be strong" -- an ill-timed action that some Idol home viewers (and media outlets) took to be a reaction to Richardson's Virginia Tech comments.
"The truth was I switched off at that point," Cowell told Ryan Seacrest on the Idol host's Los Angeles radio show Wednesday morning, according to E! Online. "Half the time I can't hear what [the contestants are] saying. My reaction was to what he had said previously, that singing nasally is a form of singing...My eye-rolling was what I was saying to [fellow Idol judge Paula Abdul]."
Idol executive producer Ken Warwick backed Cowell's reasoning for his reaction during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.
"Simon didn't hear it. It's as easy as that. It's quite difficult when contestants are talking on their mic for Simon to hear them. And he was wound-up because Chris was talking about singing through his nose, which Simon hates with a vengeance. For Chris to say it was a deliberate way of singing, Simon just kind of turned off and was reacting to that," said Warwick. "[Cowell] just didn't hear it. He was still kind of smoldering over Chris' comments about singing."
Cowell told Seacrest Monday's shootings on Virginia Tech's campus is a "very, very sensitive subject," and added, "I think Chris was right to have said what he said because he's from that neck of the woods." But he didn't hear the comments, and Warwick said sitting in Idol's control room with the director, even he missed Cowell rolling his eyes and raising his brows while it was taking place.
"Immediately I went to his trailer and he said, 'Oh God. Apparently it looks like I rolled my eyes at the end of it.' I said, 'Well, the fact of the matter is, you'd be a blinking fool if you'd have done that,'" said Warwick, describing Cowell as "mortified" following the realization of what it looked like he was rolling his eyes at. "He'd be the biggest fool on television if he did that. And he's not a fool. Believe me. When you think about it, nobody in their right mind would pull a face like that. He's not stupid, certainly. He wouldn't do that."
Cowell still cautiously approached the subject with Seacrest on Wednesday morning, commenting, "a lot of these things escalate because of the publicity they generate."
"People are always trying to make something out of nothing, no matter what it is," explained Warwick. "And the fact is that if he had rolled his eyes in answer to Chris' statement [about Virginia Tech]... then he would have had something to answer to."
"Everyone at American Idol feels compassion for those affected by this tragedy. We opened the show with those thoughts and Simon later expressed sincere condolences on behalf of the judges, recognizing the challenges we all face in dealing with this horrible event," Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe added in a separate statement released to The Drudge Report on Wednesday.
Some have still suggested that the often sharp-tongued British judge was rolling his eyes at the thought of Richardson trying to get votes by playing on people's sympathy.
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"There's a sensitivity to the issue, I don't honestly think he would be silly enough to pull a face after a statement like that... I really don't," said Warwick. "We addressed it earlier in the show, he knew he was going to make a statement at the end... I can't really believe he'd be silly enough to pull a face at Chris' statements."