Pop mogul Simon Cowell has today denied being disrespectful to the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre.
The American Idol judge was caught on camera rolling his eyes and raising his eyebrows as one contestant paid tribute to them.
But Cowell, who has made millions from shows like X Factor, dismissed the claims as rubbish. He said he could not hear the tribute and was criticising the young hopeful's nasal singing as he made the gestures.
Chris Richardson of Chesapeake, Virginia, followed his performance by saying: "My hearts and prayers go out to Virginia Tech. I have a lot of friends over there ... be strong."
The camera caught Cowell's expression and showed him tapping his hand once. Fellow judge Paula Abdul could be seen nodding in approval.
The Fox network said it received a small number of complaints, but internet message boards were deluged with discussion about Cowell.
Cowell dismissed the claims of disrespect as "rubbish", but on the next show he was forced to explain his actions.
He said: "I may not be the nicest person in the world, but I would never, ever, ever disrespect those families or those victims. And I felt it was important to set the record straight."
Executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said: "This is a sad time for everyone, so it is especially disheartening that a quick camera cutaway could have been misinterpreted."
He added: "Simon later expressed sincere condolences on behalf of the judges, recognising the challenges we all face in dealing with this horrible event."