Cowell has now called it “a joke”, reports mirror.co.uk.
He was earlier slammed for saying: “Guys, who misses Zayn? We all get old but I’ve still got charisma.”
The 56-year-old has issued an apology for his comment, admitting that it “backfired hugely”.
“I just kind of thought when I was standing on stage with them, that they were back to being five, and I saw myself being a part of One Direction for a moment. That’s when I made that quip, ‘Who Needs Zayn?’ which of course backfired hugely. So I apologize to any Zayn fans out there – it was meant as a joke,” he said on a radio show.