By James Hibberd
July 23, 2012 at 11:05 PM EDT
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So what does Simon Cowell think of American Idol hiring Mariah Carey as its new judge?

Cowell has previously expressed enthusiasm in Carey as a candidate for X Factor. But now that she’s joined his previous show, he injected a little note of skepticism about her ability to crush the dreams of wannabe pop singers.

“I think she’s going to find it difficult to say ‘no’ [to contestants],” Cowell told reporters via satellite from Miami during The X Factor‘s panel at critics’ press tour in Beverly Hills. “She’s sweet.” Cowell then gamely added: “I think she’s going to be great.”

Speaking of judges being too polite, Cowell’s new hires, Britney Spears and Demi Lovato, didn’t demonstrate much bite during the panel, though Cowell assured Spears is “quite mean” and Lovato is “a brat.” 

Spears and Lovato also had some playful banter with the 52-year-old Cowell that he seemed to enjoy (Lovato on Spears: “She’s a sweetheart.” Cowell: “She’s as sweet as a lemon.” Lovato: “You’re not going to gang up–you’re going to have two girls–” Cowell: “I’ve had it.”).

But while it’s all smiles and slightly creepy cross-generational flirting now, who knows if X Factor‘s new judges will last a second season. One critic pointed out that the last judge Cowell dubbed a “brat” was Cheryl Cole, who spent about two seconds as a judge on the U.S. version of X Factor before being replaced before the first season premiered.

“Nobody has any job security any more — including myself,” Cowell said, though reassured: “I don’t envisage this [panel] changing for awhile.”

Episode Recaps

Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, and Paulina Rubio judge Season 3.
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