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By Wade Paulsen, 05/03/2005 

In an effort to boost its ratings, ABC has been keeping quiet about the details of its upcoming American Idol exposť that's scheduled to air in a special edition of ABC's Primetime Live on Wednesday, May 4, at 10 PM (after the Idol results show at 9 PM on Fox). However, ABC's plans for secrecy seem to have crumbled under the combined push of the mainstream media and the blogosphere.

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Separate stories in The Drudge Report and The Washington Post indicate that the main portion of the report will (as previously rumored) be dedicated to Idol 2 finalist Corey Clark's claims that he had a sexual relationship with judge Paula Abdul during his time on the show. In addition, ABC will air a message that was left by Paula on Corey's cell phone this spring, after gossip columnist Cindy Adams reported that Corey's book proposal included descriptions of Paula's house and discussed "wild, drunken sex" -- sex which The Globe tabloid later alleged took place during a secret affair between Corey and Paula. In the voice mail message, Paula supposedly asks Corey not to respond to media inquiries -- a request which Corey has obviously ignored.

The Post also reports that Primetime Live will disclose Corey's telephone records, which supposedly show that Paula and Corey had lengthy and frequent phone conversations during his time on Idol. Corey's cozy relationship with Paula will be contrasted to the distance inherent in the normal judge-contestant relationship on the show, discussed in interviews with other former Idol contestants.

The additional phone evidence is apparently sufficient for ABC's legal department to permit the report to air, despite the threat of a lawsuit from Paula's attorney Martin Singer (the "pit bull" celebrity lawyer who also represented scandal-plagued "heirhead" Paris Hilton in her sex-tape lawsuits).

Analysts believe that ABC's secrecy has been intended to boost viewership for the report. Estimates indicate that about 15% more people will tune in if they think that the exposť will "expose" something more than Corey's claims -- especially considering that Corey was kicked off the show (and became Idol 2's ninth-place finisher) for failing to disclose his upcoming trial for battery against his 15-year-old sister and for resisting arrest, as well as the previous lawsuits (plural) against him for passing bad checks -- not exactly stellar examples of Corey's truthfulness and credibility.

One thing that the ABC report apparently does not allege is that Paula improperly aided Corey before he was named one of the show's final 32 semifinalists, as the alleged relationship did not begin until after Corey reached the semifinals. Paula also could not have directly helped Corey to advance after that time, as viewer voting determined the competition's finalists and subsequent eliminations.

Although each judge was permitted to vote one "wild card" semifinalist into the finals during Idol's second season, viewers voted Corey into the finals following his "Group 4" semifinals rendition of Journey's 'Foolish Heart'. (Paula used her wild card selection to advance Trenyce, a beautiful and talented singer who finished fifth ... despite her own pre-show indiscretions. Meanwhile the fourth wild-card finalist was determined by home viewers who voted in eventual Idol 2 runner-up Clay Aiken... who had originally performed in an extremely talented "Group 2" semifinals round won by eventual Idol 2 winner Ruben Studdard and second runner-up Kimberley Locke.)

Thus, while a relationship between Paula and Corey may be viewed as tacky or inappropriate, there seems to be no credible allegation that Paula used her influence in any way that affected Corey's outcome on the show. Instead, the allegations seems to be limited to Paula providing "private coaching" to make Corey come across better to television viewers.

Finally, the Post story says that the ABC report will include behind-the-scenes footage of Idol's second season (the season featuring Corey) which was shot for a 20/20 profile of the show that aired January 31, 2003. There is no report of whether there is any physical contact between any judges and any contestants in that footage.

According to the Boston Herald, Corey claims that Paula "seduced him" once the semifinalists were in Los Angeles. However, as recounted in one review, Corey bombed his audition after blowing off practice for a "night of wild drinking and sex" and then managed to advance to the semifinals only by "shamelessly sucking up (while horribly out-of-tune, natch) to Paula." Doesn't sound like much seduction was needed -- and it also doesn't do anything to boost Corey's overall credibility.

For what it's worth, the same review also states that Corey was "easily the most loathed contestant [in season 2], and with very good reason" and that he was "pure sleaze." Right now, Paula Abdul would probably agree with that characterization.

All of the controversy has fueled speculation that Paula, who has recently brought more negative publicity to the show for a hit-and-run accident and for a rumored drug problem, might be replaced as an Idol judge at the end of this season. However, any such decision probably would not be made by Fox and Idol producer 19 Entertainment (which was recently sold) until the public relations impact (if any) of the actual ABC exposť can be evaluated.


(Photo credit Fox)


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