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Rumors erupt that Jermaine Jones will be disqualified
After getting the axe at the top 44 during the Las Vegas performance round, Jermaine Jones was brought back as a surprise wild card to make the live shows a top 25. The deep-voiced R&B singer's triumph would seem to be shortlived, however. Dubbed the ''gentle giant'' for the contrast between his sweet demeanor and hulking 6' 8'' frame, Jermaine was reportedly disqualified from American Idol for not disclosing his legal infractions to Idol honchos. TMZ and The Smoking Gun are citing a number of arrests and outstanding warrants (including three for driving on a suspended license and one for disorderly conduct with an open container). And THR.com reports that the disqualification will play out on tonight's show. —MJ Santilli
2 of 27
Nikki McKibbin outlasts Tamyra Gray
Idol experienced its first — but hardly its last — voting controversy after favorite Tamyra Gray was eliminated prior to the struggling Nikki McKibbin. McKibbin fielded plenty of heat from viewers — who claimed, among other things, that she used her young son to pander for votes — and Idol's audience was convinced that the voting was fixed. It wasn't, of course, and McKibbin was sent packing the next week, making way for a young singer named Kelly Clarkson to nab the first season's crown.
3 of 27
Frenchie Davis is disqualified
The season 2 contestant had a big voice, a big heart, and was poised to become a big star. If only her Idol career wasn't so short-lived. Davis became an immediate front-runner in the competition after blowing the judges away with her audition performance of ''And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going,'' and her Hollywood version of ''Band of Gold.'' Unfortunately, topless photos of the singer were soon found roaming the Web, and Idol's powers-that-be opted to cut Davis from the family-oriented competition before the semi-final round. Yet it would take more than a little photo snafu to keep Davis down — the singer starred in Broadway's Rent soon after her Idol run, has since toured with Dreamgirls and Ain't Misbehavin', and had a top 10 dance hit called ''You Are.''
4 of 27
Corey Clark is disqualified; later cries wolf (we hope)
Idol shocked its viewers back in season 2 by announcing that they were disqualifying contestant Corey Clark for neglecting to disclose his three misdemeanor charges for battery against his sister, resisting arrest, and criminal restraint. (He had a court appearance scheduled during the run of the show.) But the news wasn't nearly as shocking as Clark's claims two years later: The former contestant alleged he had a secret affair with judge Paula Abdul, and claimed she had plans to fund his career. Abdul denied the affair, and even joked about it on an episode of Saturday Night Live. One possible reason for Clark's heavily publicized claim? The Idol alum was just about to release his debut album.
5 of 27
Ryan misreads finale vote tally
C'mon! Give Ryan a break. Not only does the man hold a bazillion jobs, but he also hosts the biggest reality show on TV. So he's bound to make a mistake or two, right? Well, he made one during the highly anticipated season 2 finale, which saw Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken battling it out for the win. Seacrest, who was sick during the program, accidently misread the number of votes that separated the two finalists, leading Aiken fans to later demand that the FCC look into the show's voting process. Not that it mattered much to Aiken — the singer claimed he knew he had lost after accidentally seeing Seacrest's cue card an hour before the show.
6 of 27
Elton John calls Idol racist
Elton John felt the love the night he served as a guest judge for a season 3 performance episode. But soon thereafter, the legend began to re-evaluate his feelings towards the show when three favorite contestants — La Toya London, Fantasia Barrino, and Jennifer Hudson — found themselves in the bottom three during top 7 week. Not only was the voting public outraged, but John also went as far as to call Idol ''incredibly racist.'' (''The three people I was really impressed with — and they just happened to be black, young female singers — all seem to be landing in the bottom three,'' he told reporters.) Ultimately, it was Jennifer Hudson who was given the boot, but we'd like to think she got the last laugh.
7 of 27
Mario Vazquez quits Idol
It's hard to believe there was a time during season 4 when Carrie Underwood wasn't considered a shoo-in for the win. But back in the season's semi-final round, Mario Vazquez set tongues wagging with his smooth, recording-booth-ready voice. Viewers only got a taste of the singer's talent, though, as he became the first, and only, contestant ever to quit Idol, citing ''personal reasons.'' After the singer quickly signed with Arista Records, fans assumed he felt he was visible enough to go solo. Unfortunately, the gamble didn't pay off: Vazquez's debut underperformed, and the label dropped him soon afterward.
8 of 27
Botched phone numbers forces re-vote
During season 4's top-11 performance night, Fox mislabeled some of the contestants' phone numbers. Viewer outcry forced Idol to conduct a complete re-vote the next night in lieu of elimination. Unfortunately for Mikalah Gordon, the re-vote forced her to pack her bags.
9 of 27
Scott Savol's previous arrest makes headlines
During Scott Savol's season 4 Idol run, thesmokinggun.com revealed that the Ohio native had once been arrested for domestic violence following an incident with his girlfriend. (Savol pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge in 2001.) The show's producers allowed Savol to continue in the competition, despite publicity over his transgressions, but he wasn't the only contestant with a checkered past...
10 of 27
Bo Bice's drug past makes headlines
As Bo Bice sang on season 4 of Idol, what goes up must come down. The frontrunner's nice-guy image was tarnished a bit when thesmokinggun.com revealed the contestant had once been arrested for felony cocaine possession in 2001, and for marijuana possession in 2003. (The charges were dismissed after he completed a ''diversion program.'') But, thankfully for Bice's fans, the contestant was allowed to continue on the competition, since he had already told Idol's producers about his troubled history.
11 of 27
Terrell and Derrell Brittenum are disqualified
Sure, twin brothers Terrell and Derrell Brittenum had respectable, soulful voices — but it was their flair for drama that gave them notoreity, and inevitably, infamy. Fellow season 5 hopefuls were angry enough at the twins for quitting before quickly rejoining the competition in Hollywood. But Idol's producers were more upset about the twins' legal troubles. Shortly after Fox aired their audition, the Brittenums were charged with forgery, theft by deception, and financial identity fraud after allegedly stealing another man's identity to buy a car. Not surprisingly, they were cut from the competition.
12 of 27
Bucky Covington tries to trick the law
Combine The Parent Trap with The Dukes of Hazzard, and you've got Bucky Covington's legal drama, which was made public during the season 5 finalist's Idol run. During the homestretch of the season, the country singer made Court TV headlines for a ''bizarre incident'' in which he attempted to impersonate his twin brother, Rocky, in 1998 in order to help him avoid prosecution. (Rocky had been in trouble for driving with a suspended license.) A judge eventually dismissed all charges, but Covington was eliminated shortly after the news hit the Web.
13 of 27
The judges' un-PC remarks
During the audition rounds for season 6, Simon Cowell & Co. found themselves sitting in a nice big bowl of boiling hot water. Why? Well, not only did Cowell compare a hopeful's looks to a ''bush baby,'' but the judges also critiqued a man who they later found out had participated in the Special Olympics. Cowell later (half) apologized, saying the ''bush baby'' comment was an ''off-the-cuff remark,'' and, in subsequent seasons, appeared to soften his demeanor. But the judges' behavior during the audition rounds was called into question once again in late 2008, after a former season 5 hopeful, Paula Goodspeed, committed suicide. Critics claimed the judges' mockery of Goodspeed might have altered her state of mind, and also called into question the show's screening process. (Goodspeed harbored an unhealthy obsession with Abdul.)
14 of 27
Antonella Barba's naughty pics hit the Web
Paging Frenchie Davis! Jersey girl Antonella Barba caused a stir when some less-than-PG pics of the season 6 contestant surfaced on the Web. And viewer outrage persisted after Idol decided to allow her to stay in the competition — an opportunity not afforded to season 2's Davis. (In response, Davis told The New York Post, ''I think it's fantastic if Idol has evolved...but if the rules have changed, I believe there should be something to make up for the fact that I was humiliated needlessly.'') Even the ladies of The View got into the action: Rosie O'Donnell claimed she felt the show was ''racist...I think it's because [Davis] is black.'' Fair or no, Barba hardly got the chance to show the world her talent — she was eliminated after just three sub-par semifinal performances.
15 of 27
Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest's homophobic banter
At first, many were able to politely ignore Cowell and Seacrest's gay-focused banter. But soon, Idol's audience began to turn on the host and judge, following a particularly offensive back-and-forth during season 6: ''Stay out of my closet!'' Ryan told the judge; Simon told the host, ''Come out!'' The duo hardly apologized for their words, but things were much more toned down by the time Ellen DeGeneres joined the show last season.
16 of 27
Sanjaya finishes seventh
The crying girl has two things to thank for Sanjaya Malakar overstaying his welcome on Idol's sixth season: votefortheworst.com and Howard Stern. At first, the singer seemed to be too timid for the Idol stage, but became a larger-than-life phenomenon — in that bad kind of way — after the website and shock jock urged viewers to call in their votes for the most vocally flawed contestant of the season. Some even said Malakar hurt the credibility of the program. And then there's that ponyhawk...
17 of 27
Simon Cowell's bad timing
We always knew Simon was a grinch. But we began to wonder whether the cranky judge was truly heartless following a post-performance chat between Chris Richardson and Ryan Seacrest, in which the season 6 contestant — and Virginia native — sent his condolences to the families of the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings. The camera panned to Simon, who appeared to be rolling his eyes in response to Richardson's words. As the judge later explained, he was actually rolling his eyes in response to something Paula said during Ryan and Chris' conversation. We all knew Simon wouldn't be that cruel.
18 of 27
David Hernandez's stripping past
The season 7 contestant's stripped down vocals attracted the attention of judges and fans, but it was his past as a stripper that attracted the attention of the media. Shortly into the season's run, votefortheworst.com posted photos featuring Hernandez working at a Phoenix male strip club called Dick's Cabaret. Ultimately, Idol's producers decided the scandal was a non-issue, and allowed Hernandez to continue to show America his moves — that is, until he was eliminated following the first week of finals.
19 of 27
Danny Noriega's controversial MySpace video
Danny Noriega proved he had attitude during season 7's semifinal round. (Just look at the way he snapped back at Simon!) But he might have taken his attitude a bit too far in an old video posted on his MySpace page, in which he told Web surfers, ''I hope Santa Claus rapes your f---ing mother and I hope you all get coal, because you are all pieces of s--t.'' Um, Merry Christmas?
20 of 27
Season 7's Jason Castro may have acted the part of a stoner, but we all wondered what Paula was smoking during top 5 performance night, when the loopy judge began offering critiques of both of Castro's two planned performances when, in fact, he'd only finished one. The result? Paulagate. Abdul explained that she had gotten ''lost in my notes,'' but fans were still upset at the judge's lack of remorse for her misstep. Of course, all the extra attention on Castro only helped him, since he remained on the show for another week.
21 of 27
Carly Smithson's musical past is discovered
Idol has always been considered a vehicle for the unknown and inexperienced. So when Carly Smithson became a finalist in season 7, viewers voiced their disapproval upon discovering the singer had at one time had a recording contract with MCA records. (The subsequent album, Ultimate High, was recorded under Smithson's maiden name, Carly Hennessy.) Idol's producers decided she would remain on the show; the rules don't prohibit those who once had a recording contract, only those who are currently signed. It wasn't long until viewers put their discontent behind them, but it also wasn't long before they began the familiar argument again, after...
22 of 27
Joanna Pacitti's musical past is discovered
Pacitti quickly became a judges' favorite after her season 8 audition in Louisville, Ky. But viewers had a hard time rallying behind the singer when her audition package revealed she'd already had extensive experience in the industry. (Pacitti was previously signed to A&M Records.) Then, viewers discovered the singer had close ties with two Idol executives. That was enough to force Pacitti's disqualification — even though the series had already shown her nabbing a spot in the top 36. (Felicia Barton took her place in the semifinals.)
23 of 27
Finalists lip-sync group performances
Idol's cheesy group performances have never been must-watch numbers. But during season 8, Idol producers decided the top 12 would lip-sync the group numbers from pre-recorded tracks, leading to outcry from Idol purists. Once the numbers wound down, the contestants did actually begin to sing, but many were left wondering whether the brief change hurt the credibility of Idol.
24 of 27
Adam Lambert's guy-on-guy kiss
Though fans of the season 8 glam rocker merely shrugged when photos featuring the singer kissing another man took the blogosphere by storm, Fox News pundit Bill O'Reilly censored the PG pic on his show, and some wondered whether conservative Idol viewers would continue to support the early front-runner.
25 of 27
AT&T supposedly supports Kris Allen
Glambert Nation was already miffed following season 8's finale, in which Kris Allen was crowned the Idol champ. But they were downright pissed after The New York Times released an article claiming AT&T might have swayed the results by supplying power-text advice and free text-messaging to some fans in Arkansas who organized Kris Allen support parties. The company claimed local employees did provide ''texting tutorials'' for viewing parties in Allen's home state, and Fox tried to ease concerns by telling fans the results were ''fair, accurate and verified. Kris Allen is, without a doubt, the American Idol.''
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Rumors of Abdul's departure began as early as season 8, when Kara DioGuardi was added as Idol's fourth judge. Yet hardcore Idol fans were still shocked when the judge announced in August 2009 via Twitter that she was parting ways with the reality show after contract negotiations fell through. (The judge, however, told TV Guide that money wasn't responsible for her departure: ''I had to stand on my principle.'') Ellen DeGeneres was handpicked to dance her way into Abdul's vacated seat but a year later Ellen's moved on and now Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, and Randy Jackson are the season 10's three judges.
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Fans were worried when reports surfaced that the show in the homestretch. Then there was talk that Bowersox felt betrayed by Seacrest but season 9's woman to beat dismissed any rumors that she had a conflict with the host after the two appeared on stage the following week, telling People.com that there was ''no beef with me and Ryan. We were never angry with each other. We had a conversation. He gave me good advice and I highly respect him.'' She not only stayed on, but finished second to eventual winner Lee DeWyze.