updated 12/20/2012 AT 9:55 AM ET
•originally published 12/20/2012 AT 10:05 AM ET
It takes a lot to bring out Simon Cowell’s softer side.
But the normally acerbic X Factor judge choked up Wednesday night as he introduced the show’s emotional tribute to the Sandy Hook shooting victims – in what he later said was an extremely difficult moment for him.
“I would say it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do on TV in my life,” Cowell, 53, said after the show, in which Carly Rose Sonenclar, Tate Stevens and Fifth Harmony made their final performances of the season.
“We made the decision and decided that we were going to introduce it like we did,” said Cowell. “And then it hits you what you are about to announce and what it is about.”
He added: “I think anybody in my position would have been the same, and I think it was much harder for the singers. For them to have to sing that lyric it was a miracle they did it, because it really affected them. But it was the right thing to do.”