After a week of speculation, ABC has finally revealed the "explosive" material in the "Primetime Live" exposé on "American Idol."
In "Fallen Idol," the one-hour special set to air Wednesday night (May 4), 2003 season finalist Corey Clark tells the program that he had an affair with judge Paula Abdul — who then breached the judge/contestant divide by coaching his vocal performance and helping him choose songs, shop for designer clothes and get a haircut.
The former contestant told "Primetime Live" that after an associate of Abdul's slipped Clark the judge's private number, "[Abdul] was like, 'You've got to have better song choices, and I want to help you do that. I want to look after you like — like I'm your mom,' " according to interview excerpts released by ABC. "And then she was like, 'Well, more like your sister.' And I was like, 'OK, cool, cool, cool.' And then she was like, 'Well, maybe more like your special friend.' "
Trying to combat the reports, FOX representatives blasted Clark for not going to producers with his concerns before taking to the air with them, according to a statement received by "Primetime" on Tuesday afternoon.
"Despite documented procedures and multiple opportunities for contestants to raise any concerns they may have, the producers of 'American Idol' ... were never notified or contacted by Mr. Clark, nor presented any evidence concerning his claims," the FOX statement read.
"We will, of course, look into any evidence of improper conduct that we receive. In the meantime, we recommend that the public carefully examine Mr. Clark's motives, given his apparent desire to exploit his prior involvement with 'American Idol' for profit and publicity."
Despite a pair of past-arrest scandals (for this year's finalists Bo Bice and Scott Savol), a voting snafu and the surprise departure of finalist Mario Vazquez, the "Idol" juggernaut has continued this season. The most popular show on TV draws more than 25 million viewers every week for its Tuesday performance showdown, and it is the #1 program for adults 18-49.
No mention of the scandal was made on Tuesday night's edition of "Idol," though the normally excitable and demonstrative Abdul appeared to be more subdued in her comments and praise for the current five finalists. A FOX spokesperson and Abdul's lawyer did not return calls for comment on the "Primetime" allegations.
Clark, 24, was booted from "Idol" for not revealing to judges that he was facing criminal charges of battery and resisting arrest following an alleged assault on his sister; he pleaded no contest to a charge of obstructing legal process in June 2003. He was sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation and had two other charges dropped.
Clark claimed on the "Primetime" special that during his time on the show, his relationship with Abdul, 42, started off platonically but quickly turned physical. In a "Primetime" excerpt aired on "Good Morning America" on Wednesday, Clark said Abdul didn't give him privileged information, but that she coached him on "who to talk to" and how to act on the program.
The special also contains claims that Clark has provided an answering-machine message from Abdul in which she begs him not to discuss their relationship with the media or to publish the tell-all memoir he is shopping around.
Clark's parents told "Primetime" that they disapproved of their son's relationship with Abdul while he was a contestant, and they spoke to the judge when she called their house looking for Clark.
On the program, Clark also alleges that Abdul gave him some of her prescription cough syrup to ease his throat problems and helped spruce up his image with clothes and a haircut in order to help in "polishing off that dust — off of the dirty diamond and helping me shine a little bit, you know what I mean? Like, 'Yo, check him out now.' "
Clark told "Primetime" that he is coming forward now in order to "set the record straight for myself. And, unfortunately, I need to set the record straight for her, too, because she was a part of it." The singer denies his comments are part of a publicity stunt, but the press release from "Primetime" notes that a song on Clark's upcoming debut album deals with the affair.
Abdul's lawyer, Marty Singer, has reportedly threatened ABC with legal action if the show airs (see "Paula Abdul Denies Affair Allegation As 'Idol' Producers Investigate"), though an ABC spokesperson would not comment on legal matters and said the program will air as intended.
Through a spokesperson, Abdul released a statement to "Access Hollywood" last week denying any wrongdoing.
"Paula Abdul will not dignify the false statements made by Corey Clark with a response," the statement said. "Mr. Clark is an admitted liar and opportunist who engages in unlawful activities. He is communicating lies about Paula Abdul in order to generate interest in a book deal."
Frequent Abdul tormentor Simon Cowell stepped to his fellow judge's defense last week as well, telling "Extra" newsmagazine, "There's no underhandedness going on behind the scenes. Paula, to be fair to her, will spend more time backstage with the contestants giving encouragement. But that's not a bad thing. I think [the accusations] are rubbish. I think this is a guy who's out there to publish a book."