Simon Cowell Calls Out The True Reason Jennifer Hudson Lost American Idol

When Jennifer Hudson was eliminated from "American Idol" Season 3 in 2004, it came as a shock to fans and contestants alike. The "Giving Myself" singer was considered a favorite to win the reality show, and several theories popped up at the time to try and explain why she was voted off. "American Idol" executive producer Ken Warwick then used Hudson's exit as an example of why the show's viewers should be diligent about voting. "As proven with [that night's] results, you can never assume that any contestant is safe," he told Entertainment Weekly in April 2004.

One theory about Hudson's elimination came from Elton John, who believed voters were "incredibly racist" for landing three Black singers (Hudson, La Toya London, and Fantasia Barrino) in the bottom three. However, Simon Cowell felt Hudson's exit had nothing to do with race. "My gut feeling is the girl who got kicked out wasn't the American Idol," he said in 2004, while addressing the "Rocket Man" artist's comments, per MTV. "I don't think she was the best singer."

Shortly after her "American Idol" loss, the "Spotlight" singer said she believed more was at play than simply singing ability in determining the show's winners. "I don't think it was based on talent, but if it was, I was robbed," she told MTV in 2004. Nearly two decades later, Cowell told Hudson the reason he believes she was eliminated.

Simon Cowell blamed the songs

Adding to her already impressive résumé, Jennifer Hudson started her own talk show, the "Jennifer Hudson Show," and on the first episode she brought on Simon Cowell as a guest. During the interview, Cowell brought up Hudson's controversial "American Idol" elimination, and the former judge blamed it on "stupid Barry Manilow Week," which was the theme when Hudson was voted off. "And I remember thinking, 'This is not a great song,'" Cowell told the host. "Wasn't your fault. And then, of course, what happened, happened." To her credit, Hudson showed no resentment over being voted off, seemingly prematurely. "By the time I was eliminated, I feel like I got an opportunity to display who I was as an artist, so I was okay with being eliminated," she replied.

As Hudson's star began to rise in Hollywood, another "Idol" executive shared similar sentiments to Cowell's. "Jennifer was one of my favorites that season, but she chose bad songs, tunes that didn't show off her voice," Nigel Lythgoe, an executive producer of the show, told the Los Angeles Times in 2006.

The dynamic between Hudson and Cowell has changed once she left the reality show. When she was nominated for best supporting actress at the 2007 Academy Awards, the famously prickly judge sent her words of encouragement. "What you have done is literally extraordinary. I think you're going to win and you deserve it," Cowell wrote in a text to Hudson, per the Daily Mail.