Fox put out a statement yesterday in support of "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson in response to a news report suggesting she was ineligible for the competition and misled the network and producers to get on the show.

An article in yesterday's New York Post said Clarkson "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."

The source of the Michael Starr-penned story is Star magazine, which will come out with its version next week.

If Clarkson had a recording contract when she auditioned for the Fox reality series, she would have been violating its eligibility rules. Those clearly state that one cannot appear on the series "if you already have any type of talent representation or a recording contract."

The report in the New York Post -- which ironically is owned by the same company that owns Fox, News Corp. -- got prominent play yesterday on the Drudge Report Web site, which gets a few million hits on a good day.

That was one of the reasons Fox decided to issue its statement: "Kelly Clarkson is not a 'liar,' [or] a 'cheat,' " the network said, using words employed in the two news reports.

"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."

The same statement was issued yesterday by 19 Entertainment and FremantleMedia, which produce the show for Fox.

Clarkson's prize for winning the reality show competition was a $1 million recording contract, which led to her No. 1 song, "A Moment Like This." According to the New York Post account, Clarkson already was recording an album with three producers -- Michael Blum, Barry Goldberg, and Carole King's ex Gerry Goffin -- before she appeared on the Fox series.

Starr picked up a passage from the Star magazine article in which Goldberg is quoted saying that Clarkson had "signed a production agreement with us in early March to record a full slate of 12 songs for an album, but after doing five wonderful songs, she walked out."

"The next time I saw her was on TV a couple of months later competing on 'American Idol,' " the quote continued.

But yesterday Jay Cooper, attorney for the three producers, declined to discuss the terms of the contract and told The Post's David Segal that he and his clients did not consider it a professional engagement.

It was not an obligation to make an album, he told Segal.

"She recorded five songs for my clients. All we've done is submit the songs to her record company and ask if they're interested in those sides," Cooper said. "There'll be no lawsuit.

"As is very common in this town, you record some sides to see how their voice is, then you go shopping to see if you can get a record deal."

Cooper said he did not know whether Clarkson was paid, "but it would have been at most minimal money for expenses. The whole purpose was to record these things and see if she could get a record deal."

At tabloid report says the American Idol may already have had a recording contract.