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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

Interview with Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak; Interview With Simon Cowell

Aired September 20, 2011 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Tonight, peace, politics and Perry.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Obama policy of moral equivalency is a very dangerous insult.

MORGAN: Is President Obama a friend to Israel? I'll ask a man who knows better than anybody else. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. What would a vote on the Palestinian state mean to the U.S., Israel and the Middle East?

And a man of very strong opinions making the biggest gamble of his career. Simon Cowell is the star maker behind "American Idol." Can he strike it rich again with "The X Factor."

NICOLE SCHERZINGER, "THE X FACTOR" JUDGE: This is why I do this. People like you inspire me.

MORGAN: Tonight Simon Cowell and Pussycat Doll and "X Factor" judge Nicole Scherzinger.

SCHERZINGER: I've finally actually met my match. I've actually found a bigger diva than myself.

MORGAN: This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

Good evening. A senior U.S. official tells CNN that President Obama will meet with President Mahmoud Abbas tomorrow. The Palestinian's campaigning for full U.N. membership and statehood recognition. The U.S. has promised to block it.

Their meeting tomorrow is an effort to avoid a diplomatic showdown at the U.N. this week. And the whole world will be watching. But the question tonight is this. Where does all this leave Israel?

And joining me now is Ehud Barak. He's Israeli defense minister and former prime minister.

Prime Minister, thank you for joining me. This seems on the face of it to be a very pivotal moment for Israel, for Palestine, for the peace process. What is your take on what is happening?

EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER: It's not easy. It's really a pivotal moment. I hope and believe that a way should be found to make it a launching pad for a new momentum to resume negotiations. No conditions in order to strike a deal. I believe that it's possible. Both of us are powerful, two states, two people. I think all the differences are not insurmountable.

MORGAN: I mean you say that, I guess the critics argue look, you know, Prime Minister Netanyahu and yourself, you've been angling for a peace process, for something to happen, for a treaty, for a settlement now for decades. And the promises have kept coming, and nothing has happened.

Is it really that surprising that the Palestinians are now going to the U.N. in the way that they are? Doesn't there eventually have to be a cutoff point here?

BARAK: You know, just 11 years ago I was prime minister of Israel and together with President Clinton we put a far reaching kind of a proposal on the -- on the table. Arafat at the time rejected it. A few years ago, Ehud Olmert, the then prime minister, put an offer to (INAUDIBLE), and summarily they rejected it.

Our legendary foreign minister, Mr. Ben Ami, used to say the Palestinians had never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. I hope it will not repeat itself. Until now, we are ready. We are ready even now.

I met with Abu Mazen two or three weeks ago in Amman. I met here in this city with Fayyad. I meet very often with Palestinian leaders. They are serious people, but they have to overcome all resistance from within and from some corners of the Arab world and move toward real negotiation with no preconditions.

We are ready, we'll be there, we'll take care of our security, we'll take care of -- we have to take care about our future, especially in these volatile, almost volcanic eruptions all around us, but we are ready to make the extra mile and try to reach an agreement.

MORGAN: I mean, the general view appears to be that Israel has never felt more isolated because of the Arab Spring uprising, but that's perfectly understandable that your own security is at stake and you're right in the center of that, you're the defense minister.

But Rick Perry today, the Republican candidate for the nomination, a man who may be president within a year, has come out today with some pretty strong statements. Let me just play you what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: We're equally indignant of the Obama administration and their Middle East policy of appeasement that has encouraged such an ominous act of bad faith.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: I mean, appeasement is a very strong word to use. Do you agree with what Rick Perry said?

BARAK: I don't understand exactly what he meant, in what context he's --

MORGAN: Let me read you -- let me read you exactly the contents. He said we are indignant that certain Middle Eastern leaders have discarded the principle of direct negotiation between the sovereign nation of Israel and the Palestinian leadership. And we are equally indignant that the Obama administration's Middle East policy of appeasement has encouraged such an ominous act of bad faith.

BARAK: I don't think the Obama administration encouraged the attitude or if there was negative in it toward the Palestinians. I think that they are genuinely trying to promote peace and to bring both sides with all due deference to bring them together and to push it.

And I should tell you honestly that the Obama administration is backing the security of Israel for which I'm responsible in our government in a way that could hardly be compared to any previous administration.

MORGAN: Is Barack Obama, in your view -- and you're very experienced in this. Is he a friend of Israel?

BARAK: You know, I think, first of all, he's president of America. He will be friendly to Israel, especially security related issues. He's also trying, to the best of my judgment, to be even handed with the Palestinians.

I don't think that he's part of the problem. He's part of the solution and should be. But it's up to us and mainly to our counterpart, the Palestinian leadership, Abu Mazen and Fayyad and others, to shoulder the burden of leadership and start to move.

The issue cannot be solved by the American president or by the Quartet. It should be solved by the players on the ground with certain support and tailwind from the rest of the world which I believe Obama is trying to provide.

MORGAN: I mean, if what you're saying is all accurate, then President Obama clearly is not, in your eyes, somebody who is appeasing the Palestinians. Is it, therefore, dangerous for Rick Perry to come out with statements like this? Is it inflammatory?

BARAK: I think that I do not pretend to enter into the American political debate.

(CROSSTALK)

BARAK: Political debate. I don't think that appeasement is an accurate description of the policy of this administration in the United States.

MORGAN: Is it -- is it unhelpful? I mean, look, Rick Perry met -- he's way ahead in the polls to be the Republican nominee. President Obama's approval rating, as you know, is a record low. It is likely that Rick Perry might be the next president of the United States. Therefore he's incredibly important. If he comes out with these kind of statement, isn't that dangerous?

BARAK: That's up to -- that's up to the American people. We respect whoever you will vote for as your next president. It's not up to us. I don't pretend even to involve in it. But I'm a great fan of honesty in politics. I'm not a great believer in polls. But it's beyond us.

We expect any American president, from whatever side of the political aisle, to be basically pro-Israel in the sense that he might always recognize the common ground, the kind of common basis of values, it puts certain burden upon ourselves to behave accordingly. It puts a certain responsibility on you.

But I believe that we have a much more -- much wider support for Israel basic cause than could be described through party glasses or eyeglasses.

MORGAN: Well, when I interviewed -- I interviewed Prime Minister Netanyahu early this year in Jerusalem. It's a fascinating encounter in many ways. And I suggested to him, look, isn't it time that he, having been prime minister twice now, and gotten no nearer a peace deal, is it not time for what I would call the Sadat moment, or somebody on the Israeli side -- and currently it would be him, with your assistance -- to be the bigger man here, to be the one that takes the biggest step that's perhaps as popular with your own people, with your own party?

In other words, put peace before politics. Are we not at that moment? I mean the moment the Palestinians are circumnavigating you to the United Nations, is it not the time, as many people are crying out for, for you and Prime Minister Netanyahu to get together and say, we're going to make this happen, we're going to do a deal, we're going to take more pain in negotiation than we would wish to because the bigger picture is more important?

BARAK: I believe Prime Minister Netanyahu genuinely believes in the need to move forward and ready to take the risks to pay the painful price. If it's possible --

MORGAN: What is the risk that you think is palatable? What is the risk that you're talking about?

BARAK: It's -- you know, Israel, we -- for example, we pulled out under my order as a prime minister from Lebanon. After staying there for 18 years. Under international recognition there is a -- certain U.N. resolution so it ended up being the place from where 45,000 rockets and missiles are aimed at our population including the main central areas of Israel like Tel Aviv.

Sharon, out of all people, pulled out from Gaza, to the last square inch, the last soldier and settler. We end up now with 10,000 rockets aimed at the south of --

MORGAN: Here's my problem. Not my problem. A lot of people -- (CROSSTALK)

BARAK: Believe me. Just try to think of a -- 50,000 rockets aimed at Manhattan or Washington, D.C.

MORGAN: I totally understand.

BARAK: With major focus of attention --

MORGAN: Nobody disputes that Israel has massive security issues. Nobody disputes that living under the threat of rockets and everything is an intolerable pressure that you've had to bear. Nobody disputes it.

But also nobody disputes that the oppression that many sew of so many Palestinians, millions of Palestinians, really the invasion like the Gaza Strip, it can't go on. That this impasse has to end. There has to be a finish to this. And that's where people look to you and to Prime Minister Netanyahu to say you've been around the block a long time on this. This is the time for you to make the big move.

I mean I'll read you what was a fascinating article by Thomas Friedman, pretty damning, about the administration in Israel. He said, "I've never been more worried about Israel's future. The crumbling of key pillars of Israel's security, the peace with Egypt, stability of Syria, the friendship with Turkey and Jordan, coupled with the most diplomatically inept and strategically incompetent government in Israel's history, have put Israel in a very dangerous situation."

Strong words.

BARAK: You know -- yes, strong words. I highly appreciate Tom Friedman, but let me tell you. The developments in the Arab world, what's called the Arab Spring, it's a political (INAUDIBLE) we have not witnessed since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire is not something that had been created by us or caused by the fact that we have a conflict with the Palestinians.

It would have happened anyhow and what happens now to Turkey after 100 years of camelism (ph) is something which is beyond our control. It might take place anyhow. So we should not held ourselves -- hold ourselves responsible for whatever happens in the Arab world.

On the other hand, if you mentioned Gaza, you know, in Gaza Strip we are no more an effective holder of the area. There is Hamas government. We gave it to the Fattah. And they lost it in a coup d'etat to the Hamas which is a terror organization with no common ground to talk about.

So basically Abu Mazen doesn't control half of his own people when it comes to talking on their behalf. So it's not that simple. Believe me. If it were much simpler, it would have been already behind us.

It's a difficult issue to solve. We have to be responsible for our security. We have a primary contract with our civilian population to protect them against things that are happening day and night all around us in the immediate.

MORGAN: Hold that thought.

BARAK: We have to do it.

MORGAN: Hold that thought. Let's come back after the break and discuss specifically the effects of the Arab Spring on Israel and its security.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Back now with Ehud Barak who is Israeli defense minister and former prime minister.

Prime Minister, talk to me about the Arab Spring. We touched on that earlier. But clearly an extraordinary few months for the region. I mean, this is a kind of activity that would normally take generations to take -- to happen and it's all happened in a few months.

And right in the middle of it is Israel. I think most right- minded people feel absolute sympathy with the sense that Israel must feel of really being isolated, of being vulnerable, of being surrounded now by almost constant instability.

What is it like to be the Israeli defense minister in the middle of all this?

BARAK: It's clear we have to rely upon ourselves, that it's a tough neighborhood. No mercy for the weak, no second opportunity for those who cannot defend themselves. And we -- in a moment of truth -- and we looked very carefully on Egypt, on Tunisia, on Libya, on Syria, it's clear to us. We will have to stand alone.

So we have to be strong and self-confident and well-trained and well-equipped. And in this regard the Americans are helping out, this administration, extremely consistently and -- but at the same time we have to be open-eyed.

The events are beyond our control. I compare it to the need to cause white to evil. You cannot just close your eyes, say the Lord is with us, and you cannot say, OK, nothing could be done. You have to enter into it, use these -- how you call this, to pull to navigate and to take enough time.

You cannot change the direction of the whole stream, but you can choose the point of launching of your crossing attempt in a way that will help you to navigate.

MORGAN: Did you the people --

BARAK: We have to be work, we have to be active. We shouldn't be paralyzed like a rabbit under the lights of the -- MORGAN: Let me ask you, do you think that people in the West have a slightly fanciful notion of what the Arab Spring has actually been in the sense that -- and the reason I ask that, take somewhere like Egypt where there's this huge uprising. In 18 days there's a revolution. Everyone then gets on with their lives. But Egypt carries on.

And what appears to be happening now is the Muslim Brotherhood, the more extremist ends of the Islamic fundamentalist and so on, appear to be seizing more and more political influence and power.

Is that's what's really concerning you? Are you worried you're going to end up --

BARAK: No. Let me tell you.

MORGAN: -- with a whole lot of Irans?

BARAK: Let me tell you -- I feel the pain for Mubarak. He served his country as an exemplary man for 30 years. But once it happens, it becomes an inspiring moment, it's a moving even to see the Arab world standing on its feet and the young generation demands the basic rights. But that's promising in the long term. In the short and medium term it's going to be very tough.

Remember the French Revolution. The Arab societies will go through ups and downs, quite violent periods and probably some Muslim Brotherhood will take place. There is no basic right in this (INAUDIBLE) for democracy. You cannot expect an intellectual like Vaclav Havel in the Czech Republic emerge as the leader. It will be a strong battle between basically the armed forces and the Muslim Brotherhood in many of the country.

MORGAN: But do you worry? Like I said, do you worry that you may end up with a series of mini-Irans coming out of this Arab Spring where you have the Islamists basically controlling these countries in a way they never have before?

BARAK: First of all, we are worried, but a person cannot choose his parents, and a nation cannot choose its neighbors. They are whoever they are. And these are our neighbors. We prefer to have the Canadians as our neighbors, but you got them. It's -- we will --

MORGAN: Not every American is happy about that.

BARAK: We are the strongest -- you know we are still and for the foreseeable future the strongest country a thousand miles around you from Tripoli in Libya to Tehran. And we are aware of it. We know that part of it is out of the generosity and the far-sightedness of American presidents including President Obama.

And at the same time we understand that we cannot ask someone else to protect us. We should be ready to do it on our own and protect the future and the population of Israel against any threat from the whole region. MORGAN: You're a man of history. I mean, this is the time, isn't it, when you have U.N. now greeting the Palestinians. Whatever comes out of these votes, and we're not quite sure how it's all going to play out. But the whole Arab Spring uprisings, everything has moved the game on for Israel and Palestine. This is the time to do this deal, isn't it?

BARAK: It was the time 10 years and 20 years.

MORGAN: But ever more so.

BARAK: But ever more so it's now. I cannot say that it's now or never. We cannot control history. I have nothing against the legitimacy of a Palestinian state. We say loud and clear we are for two states for two nations. A secure and protectable or defendable Israel side by side with the demilitarized Palestinian vibrant state.

MORGAN: You rightly referred to the great counter you had with President Clinton that nearly led to a deal. You said that Yasser Arafat in the end blocked it when many thought it was going to happen. And President Clinton felt very frustrated by that. I'm sure you did, too.

Do you feel after all these decades you dealt with Palestinian leadership, that the current leadership, even if they don't have complete control over all the elements with the Palestinians, do you feel there is more chance now of doing a deal with the people at the head, Palestinian leadership, than you've had in your lifetime?

BARAK: See, only time will tell. It's --

MORGAN: Does your gut instinct tell you that?

BARAK: Still have to be proven. But I feel that Hamas is much worse than what they've done in the past. And that Abu Mazen and Fayyad some others around him are sincere and genuine Palestinian leaders who genuinely reject terror. And that's a great (INAUDIBLE).

The Hamas does the opposite and some have to find a way to oppress, to suppress, to eliminate politically the Hamas influence on their destiny. I think that we -- they deserve the -- it's not the benefit of the doubt. They deserve the opportunity to prove that they are ready, we expect them to come to the table, and let's negotiate, both the bottom up aspect which Fayyad deals with, and the top down aspect which Abu Mazen deals with, on an open table with no precondition, trying sincerely, genuinely to overcome.

It will be painful, but it is surmountable. And I do not buy the idea that either the Palestinian needs or our needs can make it impossible to be bridged.

MORGAN: Minister, thank you very much.

BARAK: Thank you.

MORGAN: Coming up next, a man who is not afraid to say what he thinks about anything or anybody. "X Factor" mastermind Simon Cowell.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: The last time Simon Cowell was in the studio he described it as utter torture and his worst nightmare. So with the imminent arrival of the U.S. version of "X Factor," it is my great pleasure to welcome him back for another grilling.

Simon, welcome.

SIMON COWELL, "X FACTOR" JUDGE: Thank you. I'm actually thrilled to be back, Piers.

(LAUGHTER)

COWELL: Love doing this so much.

MORGAN: Don't lie.

COWELL: But nothing to do with the fact we're promoting the show. I just wanted to be here.

MORGAN: Of course. Of course.

COWELL: You know that.

MORGAN: Typically selfless. Now this is it, isn't it, for you? I've known you 20 years, and you have been incredibly successful for most of that time with some pleasing failures along the way as well, but here you are at the moment. I think knowing you well, it's the biggest moment of your career. Am I right?

COWELL: Yes, yes, it is the biggest moment of my career. And I kind of knew what I was getting involved in before we did this. But you're never quite prepared for it. You know the week before, night before. It's kind of terrifying. I like it.

MORGAN: Yes, I mean, someone supremely self-confident like you, how nervous are you?

COWELL: Well, if you remember, when you and I first started working together on "Britain's Got Talent," God only knows how that happened.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: You hired me.

COWELL: I know, but --

(LAUGHTER)

COWELL: God only knows how that happened. You know I remember, you know, going into the audition room for that first time. And I was genuinely petrified because I didn't know if it was going to work or not. And then when the show came out the first night, we got -- remember, we got the worst reviews.

MORGAN: Yes. And not great ratings.

COWELL: Not great ratings.

MORGAN: Yes.

COWELL: So you know I always put myself in that position, but the only thing that gives me confidence each time is when I watch the show back. And I know when I've made a good show or bad show. And this time we've made a good show.

MORGAN: On "X Factor USA" how does it different from the British one, if at all? And from what you've edited so far, how confident are you that it's going to be a big hit?

COWELL: Well, it's like comparing you and I. We're both guys, we're both British, but there's a massive difference between how people respond to you and people respond to me.

MORGAN: Great love and affection. Utter horror.

COWELL: Absolutely the other way around.

(LAUGHTER)

COWELL: And the show is like that. It has its own personality. You've seen the UK show. You know how it differs.

MORGAN: Yes.

COWELL: And I've been quite cautious about saying to people how they're going to feel about it, what is different, because I want them to work it out for themselves. And it's -- you've got to discover this show. But the way it was shot, and the contestants, and the talent and the stories, and for me to be interested when I was shooting the show -- and I get bored very, very quickly -- I was -- I was in there, when I watched it back at this screening we did, I got a real buzz. And I felt great for the guys who produced it, because they do a tremendous job.

MORGAN: Is there any truth to the ghastly rumor that you're quite nice in this series or not?

COWELL: Well, at times.

MORGAN: The Mr. Mean act has been retired.

COWELL: I don't think any one of us has a Mr. Mean act. It's not the one in black.

MORGAN: Let's take a look at USA "X Factor," quite horridly.

COWELL: This is going well.

MORGAN: I'm losing on points for the moment. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

COWELL: I've done this a long, long time. That was one of the best auditions I have ever heard in my life. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: From what you've seen now -- you've gone through the auditions -- how good is the talent on U.S. "X Factor"?

COWELL: It's crazily good. But -- and I've done this a long time -- there's a long way to go. I've see people who start of great and then, for whatever reason, you put them on the live show and they're horrendous.

But so far I'm happy.

MORGAN: There's big money at stake here, isn't there? You walked away from over 100 million dollars you could have got re- signing for "Idol." I know that. You have put a lot of your own money and investment into this. It's your show. It is five million dollars to the winner for a recording contract, in itself a huge gamble.

There's a lot at stake here, isn't there, for you? Are you -- I never thought I'd ask you this question, but are you contemplating failure? Could it happen? And how would you deal with it?

COWELL: Well, you don't go into anything contemplating failure, because if you did, you wouldn't make it. If it didn't work out well, I would be really, really upset, disappointed, because I believe in it. I believe in the show. I've done this show for a long time. I do think it's the best one. I actually do.

And when it works, it's fantastic. But you have to be a big boy about these things. And you've got to take risks. And part of what I've loved about doing this is the risk I've taken.

MORGAN: Everyone knows the big rivalry with you and Simon Fuller, who owns "American Idol." Could you take down "Idol," do you think, in season one?

COWELL: It's impossible to predict.

MORGAN: Would you like to?

COWELL: Of course.

MORGAN: You're incredibly competitive.

COWELL: Yeah. I mean, you don't do anything for the silver or bronze medal, do you? You know, I put my heart and soul into this show. And I believe in the show. I like the fact that there isn't an age limit, that you're going to see a very different type of contestant.

So, you know, knowing what I know now -- you know what, Piers, even if it didn't work, I still would have had no regrets, because you've got to take risks. And bad things happen occasionally. But that's what makes life exciting.

MORGAN: Did you watch many of the "Idol" shows?

COWELL: No.

MORGAN: Did you find it odd, the whole concept of an "Idol" without you?

COWELL: Yeah. You know, right from the get-go, when I saw these trailers and it was like every voice deserves to be heard, dig, a warmer, kinder person, dig. I'm thinking, OK, you really don't want me on the show, when I saw it back. And I was watching it more about is it going to be different to "X Factor."

And I thought yes, it's going to be sufficiently different. Because you don't want the make the same show. So -- and it worked. They decided to be kind of sunnier, warmer, all those things. You know, we have elements of that in our show. But they are very, very, very different shows.

MORGAN: We're going to take a short break. When we come back, I want to talk to you about the most anticipated aspect of U.S. "X Factor," you back in bed, metaphorically, with Paula Abdul.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COWELL: Alexander, I'm going to give you one more chance before I lose my patience with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry.

COWELL: Because I am now beginning to get irritated by you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry.

COWELL: Just shut it and start singing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That was from the "X Factor" that's finally made it to the United States. Mr. Mean is still there, isn't he, alive and kicking?

COWELL: He's there.

MORGAN: You've got some acts on this show who are kind of -- you know, they've rehabilitated their lives. And you're making a big play at that. I wouldn't say massively controversial, but unusual to do that. Tell me about some of those. COWELL: Well, when we created the rules, which were you could be 12 and there's no upper age limit, or you could be in a group, we also kind of said it has to reflect what is happening in the music business, this show. And in the music business, a lot of people who are having hit records, they've gone through similar issues. They've had drug problems, alcohol problems, home problems. You name it, they've had them.

And they normally use this to sort themselves out. So I absolutely felt the same way. I didn't want to start putting too many rules on it. It was all about talent. Somebody wants to make their life better, they own up to what they did, I don't have an issue with that. And I had no qualms showing it.

MORGAN: It's a tough time for America at the moment, economically in particular. Politically, you know, no one's quite sure what is going to happen, whether Obama will win again or whatever. You've been here a long time now. What do you think of what's going on here to the country? What do you about the fact think that nearly 10 percent of the population are unemployed? What is your advice to the people who are struggling out there?.

COWELL: Insist on manufacturing in your home country, 100 percent. That's always the most important thing, in my mind. You know, the fact that you have to get so much stuff made in other countries now is always going to be an issue. Until you sort that out, you're going to have problems.

MORGAN: You've been out of work, you know. It was only about 12, 13 years ago that you lost pretty much everything when everything went boom and bust in England. To those who've lost their jobs in all this, who are really suffering out there, what do you say to them?

COWELL: Well, you know, I had to sort myself out. But, you know, at least I had somewhere to live. I lived with my parents. But, you know, it's not as doom and gloom as people think, because you look at companies like Apple and Google, which just can't be copied. No one's going to make a cheaper version of that because people won't buy it. That's what makes countries like America great, when they do something better than anybody else. And you got to be realistic about that.

MORGAN: Barack Obama, to everyone's horror, most of all mine, name checked you memorably last year. Would you -- you can't vote for him. But what do you think of him? How do you think he's doing?

COWELL: You know what? I think as a Brit, it's quite important -- and you'll learn this, Piers -- that we don't get involved in another country's politics. In fact, you don't even do that in your own country.

MORGAN: I get involved in it every night. What are you talking about?

COWELL: But you shouldn't an opinion.

MORGAN: I've got lots of opinions.

COWELL: No, you shouldn't.

MORGAN: Why not?

COWELL: Because we don't live here. We're not Americans. It's their politics. Let them make their own decisions. Same thing with religion. I know I never talk about that.

MORGAN: As a leader, how do you think he's doing?

COWELL: As a leader, I think he's a decent guy, I really do. But what he's got to sort out right now, you know, anyone's going to have a problem with that. Look, compared to where we are now -- and I include we, Britain and America -- compared to what was happening ten years ago on 9/11 -- and I watched the anniversary the other night. We genuinely thought this was the end of the world.

And you go back to New York now and you see the positivity there and the fact how we all dealt with that and you can still be positive and optimistic, that's what Brits do well. That's what Americans do well. You know, you move on and you remain positive.

The interesting thing right now is that with Google and Twitter and everything else, it's how much power people have again. I mean, somebody else with one of these weird influential lists or power lists, whatever they are. I know you care about them.

MORGAN: I do.

COWELL: A lot. Truthfully -- and the question was, you know, who is the most powerful person in entertainment. Right now, it's Twitter and Google and it's the Internet and it's the public.

MORGAN: You're not on Twitter, are you?

COWELL: I can't do it, but I watch it. And I see the effect it has. Essentially, it's people.

MORGAN: You're not worried about not getting as many followers as me?

COWELL: You're fanatical about big lights and listened to.

MORGAN: Not being light, being followed. I don't care why they follow me.

COWELL: You know what that is? That is massive insecurity.

MORGAN: It's massive security.

COWELL: No, it's not.

MORGAN: It is.

COWELL: It's not. MORGAN: The insecurity comes from those who don't want to test the water in case, like you, they're worried about not getting enough followers.

COWELL: You are insecure, in so much as something must have happened to you as a child where you said something and nobody listened. And now you think when you go to the bathroom, people are interested. And they're not.

MORGAN: They are.

COWELL: They're not.

MORGAN: They're watching this show. They're not watching for you, trust me.

COWELL: Well, they are actually. We'll check "X Factor's" figures against PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT tomorrow, whatever it's called, next week.

MORGAN: We're going to take another break, thank God. When we come back, we're going to bring out a little friend of yours, Nicole Scherwinger (ph), who is a judge.

COWELL: Just a minute. It's Scherzinger.

MORGAN: I said Scherzinger.

COWELL: No, you said Sherwinger (ph). Let's call her Nicole, shall we? Nicole, how are you? Lovely to see you.

COWELL: Why are you getting formal? That was like a weird --

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(SINGING)

MORGAN: A huge hit "Don't You" by the Pussycat Dolls' Nicole Scherzinger. She's also a judge on "X Factor." Thank God she's joined us now. She can bring a bit of glamour to proceedings.

COWELL: You needed it, the way things were going.

MORGAN: I certainly needed a touch of glamour, Simon. How impossible has he been to work with, Nicole? Let's start from the top here. You can be honest.

COWELL: I think we should reverse the question, by the way. How impossible has she been to work with?

MORGAN: I don't mind you exchanging barbs.

NICOLE SCHERZINGER, THE PUSSYCAT DOLLS: How am I impossible?

MORGAN: In a nice way. I once described you as fantastically narcissistic.

MORGAN: Coming from you.

COWELL: Seriously.

MORGAN: The king of narcissism.

COWELL: I meant it as a compliment.

SCHERZINGER: I'm an artist, but I have actually finally met my match. I have actually found a bigger diva than myself.

MORGAN: Have you ever met a bigger ego than Simon?

SCHERZINGER: No, absolutely not.

MORGAN: In the whole of the history --

SCHERZINGER: It's rubbing off on me, actually.

MORGAN: The stakes are very high for these contestants. Apart from the biggest prize in talent show history, five million dollar record deal at the end of it, they also get to perform in the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show, which is --

COWELL: It's the commercial. What Pepsi are doing -- you know those great Pepsi commercials from the past. Madonna, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears.

SCHERZINGER: I'm going to find a way to get myself in that.

MORGAN: Pepsi commercials are legendary for being part of the show.

COWELL: We didn't ask for this. They called us and they said, you know, we've got an idea. How about we offer the winner, in addition to the money, the chance to make one of these commercials, but like one of the big music commercials.

MORGAN: So Nicole, let me take you back to when you were entering competitions. If you had that possibility at the end of the rainbow, if you like, five million dollar record deal guaranteed, plus you'd be in the Pepsi commercial at the Super Bowl half time, what would that have meant to you? It must for the nerves alone make things ten times more tense?

SCHERZINGER: You know, I started out in a show like this, where I entered the audition, went through the whole process, and went to the city and drove there. And so, for me, as an artist, it was an opportunity, because I came from very humble beginnings and I didn't know how I was going to get in front of the right people, but I knew I was going to make it somehow.

It is a whole another level right now.

MORGAN: I want to play you a little clip, actually. This is your first audition on "Pop Stars."

SCHERZINGER: Oh, please don't.

MORGAN: I will. Just because now you have asked me not to.

SCHERZINGER: My gosh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some auditioners seemed already to be on the road to pop stardom. Like --

SCHERZINGER: Nicole Scherzinger. I was meant a to perform in front of people. I love to sing, act and dance. It's my life. It's been my whole life since I've been young. I've always wanted to be Whitney Houston.

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That was pretty good. What are you worried about? I would have put you through to the next round.

SCHERZINGER: I have grown a lot since then. That was a while ago.

MORGAN: You are cringing watching that. Your voice is fantastic.

COWELL: You have got a good voice.

SCHERZINGER: Thank you, Simon.

MORGAN: Why are you so awkward watching it?

SCHERZINGER: I don't like watching myself on TV.

MORGAN: What? Why did you go on TV?

COWELL: What?

SCHERZINGER: It's much easier to perform. I don't want to watch it back.

COWELL: I don't like watching myself on TV, Nicole Scherzinger.

SCHERZINGER: Not everybody is like you, Simon, OK?

COWELL: I have heard it all.

MORGAN: Can we talk about Paula Abdul, because obviously, you know, an old -- what does it feel like you, Nicole, to be coming in between the most famous talent show judging desk pairing in history?

SCHERZINGER: Growing up, I loved Paula, like I was kind of obsessed with Paula. I had like Paula Abdul wallpaper and Paula Abdul, like, gowns and --

COWELL: Really?

SCHERZINGER: Everything. Yeah. I was kind of obsessed with her.

MORGAN: As a good Catholic girl, you have done some pretty raunchy stuff.

SCHERZINGER: Raunchy? Like what?

MORGAN: Well, let me show you. This is a video to "Right There," which I think for most good Catholic girls would be, well, certainly the experimental stage of your growing process.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: I mean, not massively popular in the Vatican, that one.

COWELL: Wow. Wow.

MORGAN: Do your family slightly go, Nicole, what are you up to?

SCHERZINGER: That's the thing, is like my -- my papa is a priest. And I grew up a very strict Catholic family. So if my family digs it, then I'm OK. They loved that

MORGAN: Your dad loved that video?

SCHERZINGER: My grandfather.

MORGAN: Your grandfather? Really?

SCHERZINGER: They love it. I incorporated Tahitian and Hula, part of my Hawaiian heritage. It is a fun song.

MORGAN: I'm going to take another break. When we come back, we're going to break every male viewer's heart.

SCHERZINGER: Uh-oh.

MORGAN: I'm afraid.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Nicole Scherzinger taking you the top prize on "Dancing With The Stars."

COWELL: Wow.

MORGAN: So, great singer, great dancer, great TV judge. You know, everyone's watching, thinking, wow, is she available? Is she single? And the crushing answer is no, you're not, are you?

SCHERZINGER: I have a boyfriend.

MORGAN: I have a met your boyfriend, Louis Hamilton. He's a Formula One motor racing champion. He also has -- this is a true story. When I met him, he had the hardest handshake, like a bone- crushing handshake.

SCHERZINGER: Really?

MORGAN: -- I have ever experienced. I'm only used to this end of the market, which is --

SCHERZINGER: I have an intense handshake as well.

MORGAN: It was absolute like crushing.

SCHERZINGER: It is good, because it means I'm really happy to meet you.

MORGAN: Yes. You have got one, too. When you first met his, was it love at first hand bite?

SCHERZINGER: No.

MORGAN: No?

SCHERZINGER: I don't -- that would be weird, right?

MORGAN: I don't know.

COWELL: Not to Piers.

MORGAN: Tell me about Louis.

COWELL: Like someone has a bit of a crush.

SCHERZINGER: You know Louis, right?

MORGAN: Yes, he's a great guy, very cool, brilliant driver, but a cool guy. He just seemed very chilled out to me. Is that what you need in your life?

SCHERZINGER: He is very humble. And we are both kind of very private people. So we've been together for over three years now.

MORGAN: You are a bit older than him, aren't you?

SCHERZINGER: A bit? I don't know, in my spirit, I feel like I'm younger. I mean, look at this face, honey.

MORGAN: Does he quite qualify for toy boy status or not?

SCHERZINGER: No, absolutely not. And one time you called me a cougar, and never again. I was like what is that? And then somebody told me. COWELL: It's a big cat that lives in the mountains.

SCHERZINGER: I have a lot of energy. And I think it's spirit. And I don't know.

COWELL: In a few years time, you will be a MILF.

MORGAN: Simon.

COWELL: What?

MORGAN: This is not that kind of show, not the kind of show that you do. This is your new album.

SCHERZINGER: Yes.

MORGANMORGAN: This is the single from the album. The album is called "Killer Love." Single is called "Don't Hold Your Breath," Is that some reference to getting some compliment from Simon or --

SCHERZINGER: Yeah. Don't --

MORGAN: Are you excited by this?

SCHERZINGER: I'm really excited. I have released the album in the U.K. It's been very positive.

COWELL: Number one.

SCHERZINGER: And then they -- I'm about to release it here. I'm a little scared because it is my baby, but I've been working on it my whole life.

MORGAN: I wish you both -- actually, I wish Nicole huge success. Simon, a little problem there. It's just the devil on my back, which is your total, ignominious failure.

COWELL: No, I get that

MORGAN: I don't think it is going to happen, sadly.

COWELL: Give me a firm handshake.

MORGAN: Good luck.

COWELL: I knew you liked that.

MORGAN: Nicole, it has been a pleasure. Simon, it's been a total nightmare.

COWELL: You got a little crush, don't you ?

MORGAN: A little bit, yeah.

COWELL: I'm not sure with it's her or Louis there.

MORGAN: That is all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts right now.