By Stephen M. Silverman
December 13, 2002 01:00 PM

FOX is standing by its star. The network issued a statement Thursday rebuffing a New York Post article that suggested “American Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson was ineligible to appear on the show and had deceived the network and “Idol” producers.

“Kelly Clarkson is not a ‘liar,’ (or)a ‘cheat,’ ” the network stated, quoting words used in the Post story.

“She did not breach any rules of the competition. She won the ‘American Idol’ competition fairly and was rightfully chosen by the American public as their American Idol.”

Clarkson, according to the Post article, “may have already had a recording contract — and was in the middle of making a record for someone else — when she showed up to audition for the show.”

If Clarkson, 20, was in possession of a previously existing recording contract at the time of her audition, she would have been violating the Fox reality show’s rules of eligibility, which state that the contest is closed “if you already have any type of talent representation or a recording contract.”

Her prize for winning the TV popularity contest was $1 million and a recording contract.

According to the New York Post, Clarkson was in the process of recording an album with three producers — Michael Blum, Barry Goldberg, and Carole King’s ex Gerry Goffin — prior to her “American Idol” stint.