The show may be happily steaming toward crowning a new pop star, but offscreen at "American Idol," things are getting ugly.
Allegations of a behind-the-scenes affair — and other allegedly "explosive" claims — set to air in an ABC "Primetime" special next week have the program's producers and judge Paula Abdul on edge.
The producers of the show are looking into allegations that Abdul had an affair with one of the contestants on the second season of the show in 2003, according to the Los Angeles Times. The probe comes amid reports that one of that year's semifinalists, Corey Clark, has floated a book proposal in which he claims that he carried on an affair with Abdul and that the former singer/dancer offered to help him pick songs for the competition and bankroll his career but asked him to keep their dalliance secret.
A source close to the show told the paper that Abdul denied Clark's claims when initially asked about them by producers. Clark was booted from "Idol" when producers learned that he had been charged with resisting arrest and misdemeanor assault against his sister; he was later acquitted. He is said to be seeking a publisher for his tell-all and is also preparing to drop his debut album on Universal Records subsidiary Bungalo Records, according to that label's Web site.
Through a spokesperson, Abdul released a statement to "Access Hollywood" on Tuesday 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."
Abdul's lawyer, Marty Singer, has reportedly warned ABC News that it could face legal action if it proceeds with next Wednesday's "Primetime Live" special, titled "Fallen Idol." The special is slated to air after that night's "Idol" results final.
ABC has promised that the special will "explore explosive claims about behind-the-scenes activities at 'American Idol,' " according to a statement. A spokesperson for the program declined to elaborate further on the contents of the one-hour special or any threats of legal action from Abdul's lawyer.
Sources told Variety that "Primetime" producers have been asking whether any of the judges had contact with any contestants outside the scope of the show and whether that could have impacted judging.
A FOX spokesperson said the network had no comment on the ABC special or the allegations.
Frequent Abdul tormentor Simon Cowell stepped to his fellow judge's defense on Monday and also dismissed the Clark allegations, telling "Extra" news magazine, "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."