”I want to look out after you like I’m your mom,” That’s what Corey Clark says Paula Abdul initially told him, according to ABC News. Then, he says, she changed her mind and said, ”Well, maybe more like your special friend.” ABC’s Primetime Live, whose much-touted American Idol exposé airs Wednesday, will focus exclusively on Season 2 finalist Clark’s allegation that Abdul secretly coached him and had an affair with him, before he was booted from the show when news broke of his pre-audition arrest for allegedly assaulting his kid sister.
In the report, called ”Fallen Idol,” Clark tells Primetime‘s John Quinones that the Idol judge at first gave the then-22-year-old advice about song choices and fashion, which he says was her way of ”polishing that dust off the dirty diamond and helping me shine a little bit.” Within a month, he says, the relationship with the then-40-year-old Abdul became romantic. Quinones also talks to Clark’s parents, who say their son told them of the affair and that they spoke to Abdul on occasions when she would phone to speak to him. Two friends of Clark’s tell Quinones that he told them of the relationship as well and even brought her to meet them. Quinones also says Clark played for him what he says was a recent phone voicemail message from Abdul, urging Clark not to talk about her or publish the memoir he’s currently pitching to book editors.
Quinones talks to seven of the semifinalists who didn’t make it as far as Clark did, and they tell him that if Abdul did show him favoritism, then the competition was unfair. In recent days, however, two of Clark’s fellow finalists have stepped up to defend Abdul. Carmen Rasmusen told the New York Daily News that she never saw any favoritism toward Clark. Neither did Julia DeMato, though she tells the New York Times that there was a subtler favoritism, with eventual top-two Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken getting help from fashion stylists that she says was denied to her. (Yeah, but look at those guys; they needed it more.)
Abdul, her fellow Idol stars, and Fox went on a pre-emptive strike last week against ABC over the special, which is timed for May ratings sweeps month impact. Abdul’s attorney warned the network in a letter that it could face litigation if it aired the report. Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Ryan Seacrest all appeared on TV entertainment news shows to defend Abdul. The judge herself issued a statement alluding to Clark’s ouster from the show for not disclosing to producers that he’d been arrested on an assault charge shortly before auditioning for Idol in late 2002. (He later pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of obstructing the legal process.) ”Paula Abdul will not dignify the false statements made by Corey Clark with a response,” her publicist said, then dignified them with a response. ”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.”
On Tuesday, Fox issued a statement noting that Clark had never alerted Fox or Idol producers to Abdul’s alleged misconduct at the time. ”Disqualified American Idol contestant Corey Clark was removed from the show for failing to disclose his criminal arrest history. Despite documented procedures and multiple opportunities for contestants to raise any concerns they may have, the producers of FremantleMedia, 19 Entertainment, and Fox were never notified or contacted by Mr. Clark, nor presented any evidence concerning his claims,” the 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.”