Cheryl Cole officially out of X Factor; Simon Cowell takes “full responsibility”

Fox and the producers of The X Factor confirmed today what we’ve known for a while: Cheryl Cole has been fired as a judge, Nicole Scherzinger will replace her, and Steve Jones will host the show by himself. Simon Cowell has taken responsibility, saying it had nothing to do with her chemistry with the other judges, only that he thought Cheryl would be happier on the UK version, though now she is on neither.

The official word came Monday in a brief statement that offered no explanation:

“FOX, FREMANTLEMEDIA 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 $5 million dollar 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.”

But in an interview with the AP late Monday, Simon Cowell said, “She was good on the American show. I personally thought she was missing her family and friends. She just looked a little bit, I wouldn’t say uncomfortable, but just not as happy as I’ve seen her on previous shows.” He added, “I hate seeing her hurt. She’s one of — I hope — she’s one of my closest friends, and this was a decision we made which we thought would be beneficial to her, funny enough. Not many people will believe that, but that’s the truth.”

Simon said he took “full responsibility” in a text to Cheryl, who “told me she wasn’t happy but that she also accepted it was a business decision and she wished the show well. Typically, in Cheryl form, she was disappointed but charming at the same time.”

This weekend, there were reports that Cheryl would be returning to the show after being fired previously, which according to Simon’s account, were actually true: The Mirror quoted an anonymous Simon Cowell associate who said, “We have offered Cheryl a second chance and she might still come back to US X Factor. Fox have been re-examining the situation and have had a change of heart. After the debacle with the UK judging panel we have started negotiating with Cheryl’s camp and the ball is now in her court.” TMZ jumped in with “exclusive details” that producers wanted her back over money, because her “deal with the U.S version is ‘pay or play’ — meaning she gets paid whether she does the show or not. We’re told execs at FOX — and especially at Fremantle — dont [sic] want to lose the money … so it’s better to have her on the show than not.” That, of course, makes little sense: You don’t fire someone and then realize that you’d have been better off keeping them financially.

The L.A. Times notes that “The British version of ‘X Factor’ is notorious for stunts, hokum and manufactured melodrama” and calls this “Cowell’s brand of media carpet-bombing,” suggesting that “Cowell milked the situation for maximum media impact” here but that may have consequences: “Americans might be turned off by a show that looks like an over-orchestrated media con before it even premieres.”

I’m already tired of the non-stop speculation and rumors that Simon Cowell perpetuates–he has admitted leaking information to the media–and while Simon’s explanation seems plausible, it’s also ridiculous at the same time. But it has generated a ton of headlines for a show that is still months away from debuting.

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