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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 March, 2004, 08:41 GMT
Cowell denies obscene sign
American Idol judges
Cowell (centre) argued with fellow American Idol judge Paula Abdul
American Idol judge Simon Cowell has denied making an obscene hand gesture during filming of the US show.

Reports suggested he raised his middle finger to fellow judge Paula Abdul during a heated debate.

But he issued a statement saying he simply raised his hand to his face, as he often did, and that the incident had been blown out of proportion.

TV networks have been under increased scrutiny in the wake of Janet Jackson exposing her breast on live TV.

American Idol, based on the hit British show Pop Idol, has become a huge success in the US with its latest series attracting 28.2 million viewers.

Cowell was arguing with Abdul about the performance of one of the contestants on Tuesday's show when he raised his hand to his head and made the alleged gesture.

His publicist Max Clifford said: "He told me, 'I do that kind of thing quite a lot, but there was no gesture'."

Fox, which airs American Idol, declined to comment on the incident.

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