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'American Idol' execs: Fake names were Jermaine Jones' big problem


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/15/2012 

American Idol producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick say disqualified finalist Jermaine Jones' biggest mistake was giving police fake names for two of his prior arrests because it made Fox executives question whether his undisclosed criminal record could still be more extensive than the show had discovered.

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"The big problem for [Fox] was the fact that he had given [the police] false names, and they were saying, 'This is what we know from the names we found out. There might be other false names and other charges out there that we just don't know about,'" Warwick told TMZ during a joint interview with Lythgoe.

Lythgoe defended Idol's decision to confront Jones -- who was disqualified from American Idol this week after the show discovered he had concealed a criminal record which includes multiple outstanding warrants for his arrest -- on-camera during Wednesday night's performance show. 

"We had to confront him, and we've done this in the past, as you know. We did it with [second-season finalist] Corey Clark as well. In this situation where self-disclosure isn't forthcoming, we have to sit them down and say, 'These are the charges and the allegations against you.' But there were actually two criminal charges actually last year that he did not disclose to us as well," Lythgoe told TMZ founder Harvey Levin.

"So the annoying thing is, we have had this in the past, you know -- lots of kids having moving violations or they drive on a suspended license or anything like that -- and they've got warrants against them that are outstanding. And we helped them where we can in clearing them up before they come to Idol."

The American Idol producers acknowledged they didn't have the sole power to determine Jones' fate in the competition, but said they would have done anything in their power to assist the singer if he had disclosed the charges properly.

"If they tell a judge, 'Look, I'm a contestant on American Idol and there's every possibility this will be great for me, can you let me off? Can you mitigate the charge?' Can you do something that invariably the judge [will] look on them sympathetically? We would have tried," Warwick said.

"We would have certainly done our best. I don't know what would have happened because we don't make these decisions. It's done through a team and then put to Fox Broadcasting. I think that would have certainly red-flagged the two criminal charges last year," Lythgoe added.

While Jones had failed to come clean about his criminal record, Wednesday night's American Idol broadcast footage showed him graciously apologizing to Idol producers for not disclosing the charges against him earlier and for the trouble he had caused them in general.

"[He was] very apologetic!" Warwick confirmed.

"He was actually very good. We said to him, 'Why did you not tell us? Why did you not tell us?' He said, 'Because I wanted to get the money together and clear them up before I told you.' But it's in the region of six or seven thousand dollars. He just doesn't have that kind of money," Lythgoe explained.

"The truth was he could not possibly pay these fines and these charges. So he said it becomes like a mechanism where just to get on the show, you do lie about them. It's like quicksand. You can't pay the charges, so the next one comes along and you lie about that, and then the next comes along and you lie about that," Warwick told Levin. 

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