'X Factor': Simon Cowell and Judges Address Contestant Controversies, Broken Dreams

X Factor - TV Still: Judges Table - H - 2011
Michael Becker/FOX

The Top 11 is upon us now, and with the exit of the gargantuan kids ensemble that is inTENsity, is a much tighter contest with some clear frontrunners. One is already known only by his first name (Astro) while the others (Stacy, Drew, Melanie) aren’t far behind.

After Thursday’s elimination show, judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, L.A. Reid and Nicole Scherzinger offered a progress report of sorts (no surprise here, Cowell did most of the talking), addressing the contestant controversies that have popped up in recent days, the results and what the future holds for the show, themselves and, of course, the finalists. Here, the highlights…

On why groups are predisposed to early dismissal… unless you’re Lakoda Rayne:

Cowell: “It's what Paula said -- it's very difficult to connect with 10 people, compared to one person. But don't rule out Lakoda Rayne. In my opinion, these girls have got something special. Like LA said, if they walked into my record label, four girls with that talent and said, we want to be Taylor Swift, I'd sign them on the spot. Amazing.”

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On Perez Hilton’s Stacy Francis assault and her past professional successes: 

Cowell: “I think [the controversy] is going to help her, but it does feel like she's being picked on a bit. We never said that you couldn't have had a career in the past. It's absurd. Many competitions I've done, they've had record deals, tried musicals, they never hid it from us… I think this typifies her story. Where she's always said,’ Somebody was always standing in my way saying you're not good enough.’ It's happened all of her life.”

Scherzinger: “I think it's dope that she has experience behind her. It shows that she's been working towards this her whole life. Simon has said, many people get close and almost have their break and that's what's so wonderful about the show -- it gives them another shot.”

Abdul:“Same with LeRoy [Bell], he was upfront and told us in the audition that many years ago, he took part in a song that was a dance hit.”

On Dexter Haygood’s assertion that the judges cut a back-room deal to let him leave the show early:

Cowell:“It's absolute nonsense.”

Scherzinger:“It's simply not the case, but I'm a big fan of Dexter's and I always will be.”

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On what the judges told inTENsity following the group’s tearful elimination:

Abdul:“What I try to make them realize is that they may not understand now, but it's only the beginning and that really magical things happen with shows like these. Their lives will never be the same and they'll continue to do music because they love it…. They want it really bad and they take great direction and were really gelling as a group.”

Cowell:“I think there is a market for this band. I said to them that even at their age, you've gotta stay strong. Tenacity is what it's all about.”

On the Stereo Hogzz's near future: 

Abdul: "Now the real work begins. They have to really prove that they're worthy of being in this competition and I think they're well on their way. They did a great opening number, we worked very hard, they gave it their all and now it's time to pick the right song and really showcase the lead singers voice."  

On whether the right act was sent home:

Cowell: “Gotta trust the public.”