Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell on Idol

Simon Cowell has pleaded, "Well, guilty!" to charges that he often whispers in Paula Abdul's ear just before they appear on camera, but denies that he does it to embarrass his fellow American Idol judge on live television.  

"I've done it from Day 1. That's part of the relationship I've had with Paula [and] I've looked upon it in a kind of a fun way," Cowell says. "It's never done with any maliciousness."

Abdul claimed in a recent interview with Barbara Walters that Cowell purposely pesters her just before the cameras come on so as to make the Idol panelist who is already characterized as flighty appear even more so in front of millions of viewers.

Cowell, however, doubts that Abdul's comments "were as barbed as they may have appeared." Historically, he says, "She's never really had an issue with me about it. If I thought I've gone too far I've apologized. And if she said to me, 'I don't want you to do it again,' I wouldn't do it."

"By the way," he points out, "it's not just Paula" whom he taunts. "I do it to all the judges I work with on all the shows all over the world."

What's your take, Idol fans? Does Paula need Simon's "help" to look distracted? Do you think their love-hate repartee is a critical part of the uber-popular program's appeal?