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'American Idol': Nicki Minaj Is Welcome Back Next Season, Says Nigel Lythgoe

The producer says the controversial judge "certainly will be" asked back on the panel; meanwhile, he's mulling whether to recruit Justin Bieber as a mentor.

Nigel Lythgoe
Nigel Lythgoe

Nicki Minaj, the most controversial American Idol judge since Simon Cowell, will continue to have a seat on the judges' panel next season, if she wants it.

When asked whether Minaj was welcome back for another round, Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe -- addressing a TMZ videographer on his way into a Malibu restaurant over the weekend -- declared: "By me, she certainly will be!"

In her first run as panelist on the Fox competition alongside fellow rookies Mariah Carey and Keith Urban, Minaj has drawn viewer vitriol for her brutally honest feedback. Last week, she demanded several contestants leave the stage following a subpar group performance of "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)," during which season 12's Burnell Taylor, Lazaro Arbos and Devin Velez botched the lyrics to the song. "I’m gonna act like I didn’t see that or hear it," she sniped.

PHOTOS: Pop Stars Dissing Each Other

The next day, Velez was ousted from the show, and afterward, vented his frustration during a conference call with reporters. "When she went crazy – when she was like ‘get off the stage, blah blah blah’ and it’s just like ‘whoa Miss Minaj, I need you to calm down please," he said, adding later: "She could have been upset because the night before she was wearing the same colored dress as Mariah, or that she was on time. We never know."

Firing back at Velez on Twitter, Minaj wrote: "Lol. Be mad @AMERICA when u get sent home. The JUDGES are the ones who FOUGHT for America to get the opp to vote for you #memba?"

Meanwhile, Lythgoe said he was mulling whether to bring Justin Bieber to mentor the finalists. "I'm just trying to figure out what he'd mentor," he told TMZ of the 19-year-old pop star, who's making headlines for allegedly spitting on his neighbor during a spat.

While Idol has been slipping in the ratings, a Bieber cameo "certainly would" help in that department, Lythgoe conceded.