Simon Cowell is finally speaking out on the controversy surrounding Cheryl Cole's exit from the U.S. version of The X Factor.

He tells the U.K.'s The Sun that the decision for Cole to leave the show was "never personal." Instead, he realized she just wasn't ready for America.

    "I'm sorry. I'm not a monster. I hope we're still close friends. She's still a star. The hardest thing to accept is that everyone has painted me as a monster because I embarrassed her. ... But the truth was I was protecting her. I just want people to be in the best place at the right time."

    "It wasn't that she was terrible - she was good. I just thought she'd be happier in the UK."

Cowell said that Cole's accent had nothing to do with the decision, despite rumors, and that she was not "fired."

    "We noticed she was quieter than normal. The feeling was that she was slightly out of her comfort zone in America. ... The intention was to do it quietly and say to her she had an option to rejoin the UK show. ... At the end of the day we were saying, 'Move to another show for even more money'. There was an offer of around £2.5million on the table including bonuses. How is that sacking someone?"

Cowell revealed that he wasn't the one to inform Cole of the decision -- instead it was the show's executive producer Richard Holloway.

    "I wasn't the right person. I felt she would be more comfortable to hear it from him."

Cole now won't appear on the U.K. X Factor either. She had been a judge on that show since 2008.

Cowell said Cole was given a deadline to decide if she would return to the U.K.'s The X Factor, but she let it pass without informing anyone of her choice. Then, she was offered a last chance to return to the U.S. show, where she was still under contract. But Cole and her manager, The Black Eyed Peas', couldn't come to an agreement with The X Factor.

What do you think of Simon's statements? Was Cheryl Cole fired?