Pop Idol and X Factor judge, Simon Cowell, has been condemned by a leading gay rights group over a comment he made to a contestant on American Idol.

Mr Cowell told a male contestant to “shave off your beard wear a dress” in the first episode of the fifth series, while fellow judge Randy Jackson asked one: “Are you a girl?”

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation says that it has raised concerns with show’s US broadcaster, Fox, relating to the remarks.

The group said it was worried about the show’s attitude to “gender expression”.

“Last week we heard and voiced concerns about the 18 January edition of American Idol – specifically, the producers’ decision to turn a contestant’s gender expression into the butt of a joke,” said spokesman Damon Romine.

“We’ve spoken with Fox and have entered into what we hope will be a productive, ongoing conversation about the show’s representation and discussion of sexual orientation and gender expression.”

Neither Fox or Mr Cowell are making coments on the allegations.