Allegations probed for probity and judicatory ramifications.
FoxTV and the producers of American Idol, Fremantle Media and 19 Television, have hired an independent counsel, experienced in "this type of inquiry," to look into allegations that judge Paula Abdul had an affair with Idol contestant Corey Clark during the show's second season, and gave him tips on singing and appearance.
Abdul has consistently denied Clark's allegations.
Fox Entertainment President Peter Liguori told a meeting of the Television Critics Association Thursday, "Any allegations against this show we take quite seriously," he said, and called the competition's credibility "extraordinarily important to us."
Abdul, Clark — who was disqualified from the show in 2003 for failing to report a prior arrest — and "corroborating witnesses" have been questioned, Liguori said. He also said upcoming show auditions in August would not rush the investigation. "I'd rather be able to come to a conclusion with the independent counsel and our production partners and come out with a definitive answer and conclusion for you, rather than race to have a conclusion before production starts."
Though Ligouri stressed the seriousness of the situation, he also tried to put it in perspective, stating that "it's America that decides who moves forward" on the show via viewer voting, and noting the series' rules about fraternization focus on whether a judge or producer affects the show's outcome. He also said, "We're talking about a piece of entertainment here."
Therefore, he seemed to imply, as long as the alleged affair didn't alter the outcome of the show: no harm no foul.
Fox's actions seem to back up this interpretation. Abdul was hired to judge another Fox talent contest airing this summer, So You Think You Can Dance; and, while Liguori was appearing at the critics' group in Beverly Hills, Abdul was filling in as an anchor on a local Fox news show. "Look, the audience loves Paula," Liguori said. "She continues to get support, she continues to light up our online site, our message board."
In other words, America decides and America has already decided.
Both Clark and Abdul have been busy this summer. Clark released his first album, and charges against him for a public food fight in June were recently dropped; also last month, unhappy manicure consumer Abdul spoke passionately in favor of legislation before the California Senate Business and Professions Committee that would establish safety standards for manicure and pedicure equipment.