Mocked 'American Idol 6' hopeful a Special Olympics participant
By Christopher Rocchio and Steve Rogers, 01/19/2007
In a development that would add more fire to the growing criticism that American Idol's judges and producers have gone too far with their ridicule of some of the show's less talented contestants, it appears that Jonathan Jayne, one of the contestants who was mocked during Wednesday night's broadcast of the show's sixth season Seattle auditions, is a Special Olympics participant.
When the 20-year-old Renton, WA resident stepped into the audition room during Wednesday night's broadcast, Idol judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson were still laughing about Cowell's demeaning "you look like a bush baby" criticism of Kenneth Briggs, a large-eyed 23-year-old who had befriended Jayne as the two spent hours waiting in show's audition line.
Upon first sighting Jayne, Jackson asked, "Are you alright?" and Cowell asked him, "Have you borrowed Randy's trousers?" -- an allusion to what The New York Times, which reported Jayne's Special Olympics participation in its Friday edition, described as Jayne's "portly" physique.
When Jayne later performed "God Bless America," Cowell appeared to continue to mock Jayne by sarcastically mouthing the song's last few words.
After Jayne finished the song, the judges -- presumably having finally realized that Jayne appeared to be mentally challenged -- appeared to soften their tone. "The spirit that you have, and you do have a great personality... I don't think this competition is right for you, but I appreciated your audition," said Abdul to Jayne. "Always believe in yourself." Added Cowell, "You're a nice guy, I like you, but this is not the career path for you."
When Jayne left the audition room, he was met by both Briggs and Idol host Ryan Seacrest. "You fought for it," said Seacrest.
"I did fight for it. I just wanted one chance," Jayne said. "They would make a ton of money if I got on that show." As he and Briggs departed, Seacrest said, "Sorry it didn't work out. Sorry you didn't get that shot. You're a fun guy."
According to the school's website, Jayne is a 2004 graduate of Family Academy, a fully-accredited private school in Seattle, Washington. His online senior biography states that his hobbies "include Special Olympics' basketball, bowling, cycling, tennis and softball." The listing goes on to state that Jayne also "likes to fish, sail, hike, camp, play video games and watch television," and lists his talents as "playing the piano, singing songs and working on the computer." According to the Special Olympics of Washington website, Jayne was also a member of the organization's "Renton Alley Dogs and Cats" 2006 bowling league team.
In a statement issued to The Times on Thursday, Idol executive producer Ken Warwick defended the show's decision to include Jayne's audition -- and another introductory segment that appeared intended to mock Jayne and Briggs' fast friendship -- in Wednesday's night broadcast, stating that the show "prides itself on not discriminating against anyone during the audition process."
During an interview broadcast on Thursday evening's Access Hollywood broadcast, Jayne told the syndicated entertainment news program that he'd like to tell Idol's judges that "you've hurt some people's feelings and that's not very nice."
However as humiliating as his ordeal might seem to some critics and viewers across America, Jayne told Access that he still has Idol stars in his eyes. "Hopefully they'll come back to Seattle [and] I'll audition again."