Simon Cowell has eaten a slice of humble pie and apologised to Cheryl Cole over the US X Factor saga.

The music mogul broke his silence on the fiasco by telling the Girls Aloud star: “I’m not a monster.”

Cheryl Cole’s exit from the American version of the talent show was confirmed yesterday when Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger was brought in as a replacement judge.

It comes amid speculation that TV bosses were unimpressed with the chemistry between Cheryl Cole and fellow judge Paula Abdul – which Simon Cowell denies.

The multi-millionaire told The Sun: “I’m sorry. 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 a the right time.”

The X Factor guru admitted he had received a text from Cheryl Cole, saying she felt let down but accepted the decision was a professional one.

Cowell told how he had suggested Cole move back to the UK as he thought she would be happier.

“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 a option to rejoin the UK show,” Cowell told The Sun.

He also confirmed Cole had been offered £2.5m to rejoin the UK X Factor – although the line-up doesn’t include her.

“At the end of the day we were saying, ‘Move to another show for even more money’,” Cowell told the newspaper.

“How is that sacking someone?”

Cheryl Cole will still receive her £1.2m salary for the four days’ work in the US.

It comes amid rumours Cole has patched things up with her ex-husband Ashley Cole.

Just 16 months after they split after it was claimed the footballer had cheated on her, the pair are said to be back on.

Last week, Ashley was spotted wearing his £200,000 diamond-encrusted wedding ring on his right hand.

According to Now Magazine, they are “closer than even” and could be close to patching up their marriage.