Ousted 'Idol' contestants swing back at judges

LOS ANGELES (AP) - After dishing out tough criticism this week, the "American Idol" judges got some feedback from ousted contestants.

Ashley Rodriguez, one of the first four singers voted off by viewers, chided the panel Friday for being hard on contestants during their first live shows. "They were coming in throwing punches," she told a teleconference. "I wouldn't say they were too hard but we definitely could have used a little bit of love from them, that's for sure."

Rodriguez, 22, of Chelsea, Mass., said she stood by her performance of Leona Lewis' "Happy," which had been derided by judge Simon Cowell as "clumsy." The departure of Rodriguez, Joe Munoz, 20, of Huntington Park, Calif.; Janell Wheeler, 24, of Tampa, Fla., and Tyler Grady, 20, of Nazareth, Pa., leaves 20 contestants on the hit Fox singing contest.

"American Idol" found itself outperformed by NBC's Winter Olympics, which drew more viewers than the Fox show for the second time in two weeks, according to preliminary Nielsen Co. ratings.

Going head-to-head at 8-9 p.m. EST Thursday, the Olympics drew 19.2 million viewers compared to 17.8 million for the results show of "Idol," which typically is lower-rated than performance episodes.

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