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Fox Says Finger Wasn't Finger

American Idol judge Simon Cowell did not intend to flip fellow judge Paula Abdul an obscene finger salute during Tuesday night's show, Fox executives and Cowell said.

Footage from the program does show Cowell resting his head in his hand with his middle finger extended, but Fox executives say that interpreting the gesture as obscene is taking it out of context. Abdul had been arguing with Cowell over negative comments he made to a contestant, not an infrequent occurrence on the show. Fox execs say Cowell often rests his hands in that position, something to which the show's viewers can also attest.

"I certainly would never make a gesture like that toward Paula or on national television," said Cowell. "Sometimes I lean on my index finger. Sometimes a different finger. Sometimes two at the same time, or, God help me, even the whole hand. I never even thought about it until now."

The appearance of the gesture, whether intended or not, takes on increased importance with the FCC's decision last week that certain words are off limits between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., no matter what the context. Whether that applies to gestures, or sign-language or other forms of communicating an obvious meaning--even saying the "f-word," remains to be determined, but broadcasters have been put on notice .

Although American Idol is shot live, it airs on a slight delay.