updated 12/09/2011 AT 12:00 PM ET
•originally published 12/09/2011 AT 4:50 PM ET
Nicole Scherzinger is responding to backlash after her decision to let America decide who would be sent home on The X Factor Thursday resulted in the stunning elimination of 13-year-old frontrunner Rachel Crow.
When a heartbroken Crow collapsed on the stage and burst into tears, Scherzinger was also visibly upset, but the judge was booed off the stage and has received hateful messages on social media networks on in comments on web sites.
“My heart comes from the right place so I get really sensitive when people are negative,” Scherzinger told reporters after Thursday’s show.
“I’m like, ‘Don’t they know I only want the best for every single person? … I want them to be the best they can be. Ultimately America made the choice.”
Scherzinger says she was thinking of the other contestant up for elimination, Marcus Canty, when she decided to let the voters have all the power.
“I wasn’t going to be the one to send anyone home,” Scherzinger said. “Did I think America probably would have chosen Rachel? … The probability was that they would have sent Marcus home.”
But when it didn’t turn out that way, the judge says she felt bad for Crow.
“When I saw that look on her face [I felt] that I let her down, like I dropped her. I could have been holding on and I dropped her,” Scherzinger said. “She is the sunshine of our show, so it’s hard to see her cry.”
Crow came into Scherzinger’s dressing room after the show and – ironically – it was Crow who was doing the consoling, telling the judge, “Everything’s gonna be okay.”
“I said, ‘You know how much I love and adore you. I’ve always believed in you,’ ” Scherzinger told PEOPLE of her conversation with Crow. “ ‘I’m so sorry all of this happened like this. But I didn’t send you home, babe.’ ”
And as the show heads into the semi-final round, Scherzinger’s protégé Josh Krajcik is still in the competition.
“For now, I have to focus on getting through these next few weeks,” Scherzinger said. “All I can do is just try to be the best person and mentor and judge through this whole process and take it one day at a time.”