Evan Agostini/Getty
January 29, 2009 12:00 AM

As the audition round of American Idol winds down Thursday, Idol producers are looking back at their Louisville, Ky., stop and saying they’re sorry after accusing a contestant of threatening the judges.

It was there that they met Coxs Creek, Ky., resident Mark Mudd, who told viewers he was the descendant of Samuel Mudd, the doctor who set the broken leg of Lincoln‘s assassin, John Wilkes Booth.

When he walked in, Simon Cowell asked him if he had a gun, to which he said he didn’t but that he was nervous. Then, after singing George Jones‘s “White Lightning,” he was dismissed, but on his way out told the judges, “Y’all take care and be careful.”

“Be careful?” Paula asked.

“That was a threat,” Simon answered.

“That was a threat,” Paula agreed. “You don’t say that to : ‘be careful.’ That’s not a normal thing to say.”

Idol producers issued the following statement Thursday on the show’s Web site:

We apologize to any viewers who were offended by the misinterpretation of the contestant’s comment to “be careful” upon completion of his audition in Louisville, KY. Our visits to audition cities are relatively brief and sometimes regional greetings and salutations are lost in translation. We had not heard that phrase from any other contestants during the day, so it took everyone by surprise. We now know better and look forward to visiting Louisville again someday.

Mudd, a 25-year-old parts inspector, may feel redeemed. But he still won’t be singing George Jones in Hollywood. — Liz BermanEvan Agostini/Getty

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