X Factor: We did nothing wrong - Cowell

Simon Cowell has defended the X Factor from claims that Sunday's results show was a fix, saying: "We haven't done anything wrong."

Fans have been angered by the decision to let the judges pick which act went home from the bottom two on Sunday, leading to the departure of popular contestant Mary Byrne.

At the same stage in previous years, viewers got to decide which singers went through to the final.

Some viewers have accused the ITV1 show of making the change to allow Cher Lloyd, 17, to get into next weekend's final rather than Byrne.

But Cowell told The Sun: "We haven't done anything wrong. All the artists knew there was going to be a sing-off. Mary and Cher were told last Monday to prepare a song for a sing-off if necessary."

The X Factor producer rubbished talk of making the move to save Lloyd, saying he has no idea of where the singers ranked in the public vote "until the series is finished".

He said the decision to give the vote to the judges was made because of the number of singers left in the show, telling the newspaper: "There has always been a sing-off when there are five people left in the competition. This is a lot of nonsense about nothing."

Cowell said of the changes: "We knew we wanted four people in the final this year....It adds to the mystery and the audience love the surprise element."

The show sparked controversy when Cowell, 51, and fellow judges Dannii Minogue, 39, and Cheryl Cole, 27, voted for Lloyd to go through on Sunday despite the teenage rapper giving a tearful performance during her sing-off.

On Saturday night she talked back to the judges and rolled her eyes during their criticism after her performances were not at her best.

Byrne's supporters have vented their anger on online messageboards, saying that they paid for phone votes while thinking that the public's vote counted alone.

On Saturday night's show host Dermot O'Leary said: "Now it's all in your hands. It's your votes and your votes alone that can get your act safely through to the final."

Despite her disappointment at not getting through to the final, former Tesco worker Byrne, 50, has landed a record deal with Sony.

She told The Sun: "When I was leaving the show, Simon came over and said, 'I'm really sorry that you've got to go but you've got your album'. I can't wait to sit down and start working on it. I'm like a two-year-old, I'm so excited."

Byrne said she could have made it to the final if the public rather than judges had been given the final say.

She said that she had thought the public would choose the act to leave at the semi-final stage and only learned on Saturday night that judges would make the final choice.

Byrne said that she may have beaten Lloyd had it been purely down to the public vote.

She said: "I hope I would have. I know the public has supported me right the way through."

Byrne sympathised with fans who had backed her to get as far as the semi-final, only to have the final say taken from their hands.

She said: "I do feel sorry for them because I know they voted in their thousands, God bless them. But they understand it's a young person's programme: they understand."

When the vote went to the judges, she said she thought she would not make it through.

"I knew then. I kind of had the hunch that that was the way it was going to go," she said.

Next week's finale to the series - which will finally crown this year's X Factor winner - will be fought between Lloyd, Rebecca Ferguson, One Direction and Matt Cardle.

Stephen Byrne.

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