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I was trying to protect her says a contrite Simon

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    Posted: 07 June 2011 at 10:36
Cheryl Cole sacked from US X Factor to protect her, says Simon Cowell in exclusive Daily Mirror interview

Simon Cowell last night broke his silence to explain why he killed off Cheryl Cole’s American dream.

The 51-year-old claimed he thought she would be happy to move back to the UK version of The X Factor but admitted he bottled out of telling her.

Instead, he sent X Factor’s executive producer Richard Holloway to deliver the bad news.

Cowell said: “The hardest thing to accept is that everyone has painted me as a monster because I embarrassed her, but the truth was I was protecting her. I just want people to be in the best place at the right time.”

Earlier, bosses confirmed that after failing to respond to their offer to come back, she had been officially replaced on the US panel by ex-Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger – who arrived for an interview in London for the Graham Norton Show.

Cheryl filmed just four episodes of the US version of X Factor last month.

Tensions started after the first audition in Los Angeles on May 8 when Cowell told Cheryl to contribute more.

After the Chicago auditions on May 19, Cowell conceded she had to go.

She was sacked on May 25 before the show even hit TV screens – but show bosses did an unexpected U-turn when they offered Cheryl her job back on Saturday and gave her 24 hours to decide.

Cowell insisted it was a genuine offer but he admits it caused rows.

He added: “When she turned down the UK show, we got back in touch and said, well she is still under contract with the US show so we invited her back. Her position was still there.

“We had some heated conversations with her US manager Will.i.am and he inferred this wasn’t a genuine offer. They thought that if she didn’t turn up on Wednesday then we wouldn’t pay her.

“We made it clear that she was always going to be paid in full. We got to the point on Saturday when we genuinely thought she was going to accept the offer but again neither she nor they returned any calls. So we’ve announced Nicole.”

Nicole Scherzinger was a guest judge on the ITV's X Factor last year

Cowell explained he and TV bosses had previously decided Cheryl was “uncomfortable” on the US show and felt offering her the chance to return to the UK X Factor would be the best option.

He confirmed the deal would have been worth £2.5million if she agreed to it, but talks broke down when news of her problems in America began to leak out.

He said: “Knowing Cheryl like I know her, we noticed she was quieter than normal, looked a bit uncomfortable but I put some of this down to nerves. The overall feeling was that she was slightly out her comfort zone in America, compared to what she was in the UK.

“If she had accepted my original offer, she would have made a sensational return and would have understood she was more comfortable in the UK than the US.”

He went on: “I apologise that all this has become public and I understand the stress she is under, and I hate that. But we have all been under a lot of stress.

“When things like this happen I look at the contestant, they must think this is crazy. All the attention is on us. I am sorry this has caused so much anguish and embarrassment, but I stand by what I believe was the right intention. And I would say that to her face right now.”

Cowell insisted he hoped to still be friends with Cheryl, despite their spectacular fall out and war of words via their friends, which has been played out in the media for two weeks.

He said: “I had a text from her last Wednesday. She said she felt let down but at the time she understood that it was a professional decision. I replied saying this was never personal or saying you were terrible. It wasn’t that she was terrible – she was good – I just thought she’d be happier in the UK.

“After the year she’d had with Ashley and the whole malaria thing, you either shut it down and go for it or you have to be with your friends and family to deal with it.

“A hundred per cent I have to take full responsibilty because I do have a lot of sway.

“We are close friends. I still hope we are but sometimes when you’re that close, when you’re making these decisions with someone’s life you have to be certain.

“I stand by what I said to her. I hope we’re still close friends. I’m sure if she was here now there would be a frank discussion, but will I work with her again? Definitely. She’s a star.”

The end of the road for Cheryl on the US X Factor was confirmed in a joint statement by TV bosses yesterday.

It said: “Fox, Fremantle Media North America and Syco TV today confirm Nicole Scherzinger will be replacing Cheryl Cole on the judging panel of The X Factor.

“Nicole will join Simon Cowell, L.A. Reid and Paula Abdul on their search across America to find the next global superstar or group to win the life-changing $5million recording deal.

"Nicole has previously joined Simon Cowell as a guest judge on The X Factor for the UK version of the show in 2010. Steve Jones will act as sole host of The X Factor.”

As the new UK X Factor judges, Tulisa from N-Dubz, Kelly Rowland and Gary Barlow joined Louis Walsh again yesterday for auditions at the SECC in Glasgow, Cowell also shed more light on the failed plan to bring Cheryl back to the British show.

Explaining how the decisions were made between himself and Fox, he said: “The intention was to do it quietly and simply say to her that you have an option to rejoin the UK show.

“We were saying move to another show for even more money. There was offer of around £2.5million on the table including bonuses.

“So how is that sacking someone? If that’s being horrible to someone then I would be quite happy with someone doing that to me.

“She was certainly interested as we exchanged a few texts and she asked if she could have my dressing room at the studio and I said ‘of course’.

“Her management even asked for a legal waiver to her contract with the US show allowing her to open discussions with ITV.

“So we genuinely thought it was going to happen. But the big condition was that it was to be kept under wraps and she would make a big entrance last week at the Birmingham auditions and everyone would have loved it.

“But when the story got out, it changed everything. There was no more com-munication and we had set a deadline of Sunday, giving her six days to make a decision.

“That passed and we still had not heard anything. So we announced our UK judges.”

He added: “I genuinely thought she could return to the UK show and be triumphant.

“Louis knows. He was actually fired but then he came back to a triumphant return.

“She would have made a sensational return and would have understood she was more comfortable in the UK than she would be in the US.

“It was never vindictive It wasn’t personal. It was meant with best intentions.

“I was always going to honour the contract. I apologise it’s been made public.”

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