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'X Factor': Simon Cowell, Nicole Scherzinger React to Rachel Crow Elimination

"Nicole is not a vindictive person," defended head judge Cowell. "If there are death threats and stuff like that, it's crazy."

Rachel Crow elimination P
Ray Mickshaw / FOX

More tears flowed on Thursday’s X Factor than any episode prior as Rachel Crow, the sassy 13-year-old from Longmont, Colorado, was sent home in what turned out to be a genuine season shocker.

It wasn’t the “save me” song that failed her, and Rachel never once visited the bottom two. No, it was America that sent her home, as the lowest vote-getter after Nicole Schrezinger tied up the score and forced a deadlock.

Now, many were quick to blame Nicole for Rachel’s exit, marking the second week in a row when the Pussycat Dolls singer felt the sting of harsh-as-hell criticism, but in speaking to reporters after the show, head judge Simon Cowell emphatically came to her defense.

“[Nicole] didn't do this out of spite,” said Simon. “What she was trying to do was to let Marcus [Canty] go with some dignity. No question, if she knew Rachel was going to be in the bottom, she would've gone the other way.”

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It’s a refrain Nicole herself repeated not long after. She reasoned: “Marcus has been in the bottom two twice, this was his third time and Rachel's never been in the bottom so the probability was that America would've sent Marcus home. I wasn't going to be the one to send anyone home.”

The unexpected twist made for some great television, but the subsequent knee-drop breakdown by the usually poised Rachel was difficult for all too bear, especially Nicole. “When I saw that look on her face,” she says, still wiping back tears. “That I let her down, like I dropped her when I could've been holding on. I didn't want to make the decision but if I had to do it all over again, I would've done the same thing. Because, how did I know? I have a big heart and I care so much, I feel it on me.”

Indeed, it was Rachel who had to console Nicole after the results were read. “She came to my [dressing] room and we talked and she said, ‘Everything's gonna be OK,’” Nicole recounted.  “This is new to me so I didn't expect this part was gonna be this hard…. Ultimately, America made the choice tonight.”

Simon added that, for Rachel, clearly something wasn’t connecting. “This could be a good thing for her -- a wake-up call for Rachel and her career going forward,” he said. “I've spoken to her and I said, ‘Its' better to do this than be third in a weird way.' [Because] if we didn't know she was in the bottom and I thought she may have a chance at winning, that's a whole different ballgame. But being in the bottom, chances are she wasn't going to win this competition and Rachel said she thought she was.”

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The head judge did, however, have a sense earlier in the day that something was off. He even tweeted as much. “I did have an odd feeling and when I was left with both girls, I was kind of torn. But when I heard Nicole say, ‘I'm gonna give it to deadlock,’ I actually sat back in my seat thinking, 'We’re [going] through, no question or doubt.' Well, we all got the shock of our lives.”

And especially Nicole who was booed so loudly you could see the agony written all over the face. “I think Nicole felt shocked because when we are making the decision, we aren’t thinking about the result,” said Paula Abdul with empathy.

And in an attempt to avoid last week’s public outrage, which turned into death threats to some loyal Drew fans, Simon addresses that, too, “If there are death threats and stuff like that, it's crazy,” he said. “Nicole is not a vindictive person.”

Added Paula: “What’s great about this show is people are passionate about their contestants, but it’s a competition -- someone’s going home each week.”

And this week, Marcus stays, an accomplishment Nicole doesn’t want to downplay. “God bless Marcus,” she said. “He's surviving and he's earned his place to be here.”

Not surprisingly, Simon had a more blunt assessment. “I’ll be disappointed if Marcus wins,” he said. “I think Rachel is better than Marcus.”

Twitter: @shirleyhalperin