Simon Cowell has broken his silence over the Britain’s Got Talent dog-gate incident describing it as a “cock up”.
The BGT boss said he was “really pissed off, really annoyed” following the fallout from this year’s final which saw winner Jules O’Dwyer introduce a second dog, Chase, for a tightrope trick during her winning performance with pet pooch Matisse – a switch that wasn’t made clear to viewers.
Cowell has insisted there is “no need” to refund viewers who had paid 50p a time to vote for the winning act, but told the Daily Mirror, “You’ve got to own up to your mistakes”. His comments come in the wake of claims from viewers that the swap was done behind the scenes to make it look like one dog – Matisse – had performed all the tricks.
Added Cowell: “The viewers have to trust us and know exactly what goes on. There was definitely no intention from the producers to hide this.
“The moment I found out I literally put my head in my hands. I spoke to a lot of people after and I did raise my voice.
“But it was mainly people owning up to it. They felt embarrassed, they felt frustrated, they felt stupid, but you’ve got to man up to this stuff. I could hear in their voices, some were in tears, just mad at themselves.”
Cowell added that if O’Dwyer’s act was called “Jules, Matisse and friends” it would have easily avoided the scandal over the so-called “fake Matisse”.
Media regulator Ofcom is currently deciding whether to launch a formal investigation into the incident which could have breached broadcasting guidelines on misleading viewers. However Cowell added that he would “welcome” an official probe – which could result in a fine – so O’Dwyer could “walk out with her head held high”.
“There’s a cloud over her and I want that cloud to go. I want people to feel proud of her and that she did well and she should be happy.”
Cowell added: “The producers are absolutely gutted. I was so depressed yesterday – for the show, for Jules and for the producers themselves, because they are not horrible people.”
He also joked that when the act performs at the Royal Variety Performance this year the dogs will be wearing “very big coats with their names on and neon collars”.
“They didn’t think about how it would appear. I was frustrated because I didn’t really know what I was judging until afterwards, so I felt like a bit of an idiot.
“I’m connected with the show, so if a contestant leaves feeling unhappy, I have to take some responsibility.”
So far 874 people have complained to Ofcom about the swap which took place during Sunday night’s Grand Final but was only revealed by Jules the next morning during an interview on Lorraine. ITV have confirmed that a further 130 people have complained to them, although the broadcaster declined to comment further.
An Ofcom source said that a decision about whether a formal investigation would be launched would be made within the month.
Jules and Matisse won £250,000 for their winning sketch (which revolved around a string of stolen sausages) and the chance to perform in front of the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance.
O’Dwyer beat magician Jamie Raven with 22.6% of the vote to his 20.4%.