Simon Cowell has gotten himself into an unwelcome flap over the Virginia Tech massacre after a surprising live scene on American Idol.
The tragedy had been hanging uneasily over Idol from the time Ryan Seacrest offered a tribute in the show’s opening segment, but it was after Chris Richardson performed that the unscripted business began.
After negative comments from Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul, Simon was criticizing Richardson’s “nasally” performance, when the contestant snapped back unexpectedly, arguing that “nasally” was a singing style. As Simon challenged him, asking if he sang through his nose nasally deliberately– Richardson suddenly switched gears and gave a tearful shout-out to his friends at Virginia Tech:
“My heart and prayers go out to Virginia Tech,” said the Chesapeake, Virginia native. “I have a lot of friends over there. Be strong.”
A cutaway shot showed Simon rolling his eyes and drumming the table impatiently, unimpressed. (See the video here.)
Near the end of the show, Simon suddenly blurted out a clumsy acknowledgment of the massacre and its effect on the Idol contestants–but the damage was done.
This morning The Drudge Report website has highlighted the incident. And you know what that means…0Talk radio, the cable news yakkers and most of the lazy mainstream news media use Drudge and its story selection as a story and topic source– especially as it gathers various angles on huge stories like Virginia Tech. Many will jump on the “Cold Cowell” story.
But should Simon be blamed?
From our vantage point, Richardson’s comments seemed heartfelt and emotional– but they also came off as a diversion to overcome the rotten performance. Simon reacted as he does when any kid sasses him or challenges his knowhow–or when a contestant like Bat Boy Phil Stacey goes for the sympathy vote by mentioning his wife.
In any case, look for the “scandal” to grow through the day– culminating with Simon’s apology on tonight’s results show.
UPDATES: Simon spoke on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show this morning and claimed that he hadn’t heard Chris’ Virginia Tech comment– and was only reacting to the “nasal defense.” He said he wanted to end the “rumours” so as not to bring any more pain to the shooting victims’ families, and added that he hadn’t decided whether he’d address the issue on tonight’s show.
And producer Nigel Lythgoe, last seen in the Idol audience boogying to the sounds of Phil Stacey, released this statement:
“This is a sad time for everyone, so it is especially disheartening that a quick camera cutaway could have been misinterpreted. We’re sorry for any grief caused by this misunderstanding, but Simon was not reacting to Chris at that point. He had turned to speak to Paula and didn’t actually hear Chris’ final comments.
“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.”
AND SPEAKING OF SCANDALS… WHAT ABOUT SANJAYA? CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST…