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AUTHOR: James Montgomery, MTV.com

Nicki Minaj may not agree with him, but according to “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest, former judge Steven Tyler was just joking when he dismissed Minaj’s abilities with his now infamous “cornfield” line.

“Steven rarely says anything seriously; a lot of times when Steven says something, it’s in jest and he’s having fun,” Seacrest told MTV News on Saturday night, on the Jingle Ball red carpet. “So my opinion is that he’s probably not saying too much seriously, he’s probably just having some fun.”

In an interview with MTV News, Tyler — who logged two seasons behind the judges’ table on “Idol” — slammed the new crop of judges (specifically Minaj and Mariah Carey) for their reported in-fighting, saying that it wasn’t fair to auditioners, and took a specific jab at Minaj’s credentials, suggesting she might not be ready for the show.

“[The judges] need a manager to say ‘Shut the f— up, and just give them your opinion,’ ” Tyler said. “These kids, they just got out of a car from the Midwest somewhere and they’re in New York City, they’re scared to death; you’re not going to get the best [out of them]. … If it was Bob Dylan, Nicki Minaj would have had him sent to the cornfield! Whereas, if it was Bob Dylan with us, we would have brought the best of him out, as we did with Phillip Phillips. Just saying.”

That, of course, earned a rather swift rebuke from Minaj, who took to her Twitter account to accuse Tyler of making “a racist comment,” and suggesting “Let’s make him a shirt that says ‘No Coloreds Allowed.’ ” Tyler would subsequently apologize for the remark, but added “I am the last thing on this planet as far as being a racist.”

Seacrest, not surprisingly, didn’t feel like elaborating on his take, instead taking time to tout the upcoming season of “Idol,” and the unique talents of each of the new judges.

“You’ve got the legend of all legends, one of the greatest living singers [in Carey], so you’ve got some incredible perspective,” he said. “Nicki Minaj is a candid and spirited and fashionista-type judge, and Keith Urban, [he’s] one of the nicest guys, a singer-songwriter-musician, and then Randy Jackson is the glue that holds it all together.”

Was Steven Tyler just joking? Let us know in the comments below.

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