Cowell says he tried to keep Cole on ‘X Factor’

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Simon Cowell said he made a good faith effort to keep Cheryl Cole on either the U.S. or the U.K. version of “The X Factor” and regrets losing her and, possibly, her friendship.

Dismissing reports that Cole was dropped from the U.S. show because of a lack of chemistry with fellow judge Paula Abdul, Cowell said he “genuinely” felt Cole would be happier back home in England and on the original “X Factor.”

“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,” Cowell said in an interview Monday from London.

“Not many people will believe that, but that’s the truth,” said Cowell, the former “American Idol” judge who created “The X Factor.” After the U.K. deal stalled, an effort to retain Cole on the upcoming Fox TV show also failed, he said.

Earlier Monday, Fox and producers announced that Cole was to be replaced on the network’s version of the singing contest by another British pop star, Nicole Scherzinger, who will shift from co-host to judge on the show debuting this fall.

Cole’s representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

Scherzinger, last year’s “Dancing With the Stars” champ, is a former member of pop’s Pussycat Dolls and has appeared on the British “The X Factor,” while Cole found fame with the group Girls Aloud.

Previously announced co-host Steve Jones, a popular British TV personality, will fly solo, Fox and “X Factor” producers FremantleMedia North America and Cowell’s Syco Television said in a brief joint statement.

Cowell and Antonio “L.A.” Reid join Scherzinger and Abdul as judges. Cole, who had already taped two audition shows, will be seen in some series footage, Cowell said.

Cowell called inaccurate the swirl of rumors about her, including the suggestion that she didn’t mesh with the other U.S. judges or that her Newcastle, England, accent was difficult for American viewers to understand.

“She was good on the American show,” Cowell said. “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.”

Cole was offered a pay boost to leave the Fox’s “X Factor” and return as a judge on the hit British show, Cowell said.

Cole’s representatives quickly responded that she was interested and negotiations began, he said. She seemed excited, he said, adding, “It was even to the point she’d asked if she could have my dressing room” in London.

But talks were derailed when word leaked to the media and her side went silent, he said. With production nearing for the U.K. “X Factor” (its new season began last week), the panel had to be locked without Cole.

Cowell said he and the other producers of the Fox show determined it would be “fair” to offer Cole the chance to return. Despite reports, he said, she was could reject the offer without breaching her contract or losing any pay.

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