The reboot of American Idol is here, whether America is ready for it or not! As a singing competition show, Idol has developed major musical artists like Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson and Carrie Underwood. It also brought forth some major scandals in the 15 seasons the show aired on Fox.
With the big return to ABC a little less than two years after it left the airwaves, the show is kicking off with a sticky situation involving host Ryan Seacrest. Even though the issue doesn’t involve his job at Idol, the sexual harassment allegations from his former stylist at E! carried over to the Oscars red carpet recently. Will it also stain the relaunch of Idol?
NBC Universal has publicly stated that an independent investigation cleared Seacrest due to “insufficient evidence to substantiate [the] allegations,” but that may not matter in the court of public opinion. While we wait for this story to play out, let’s take a look back at some of the scandals from the early days of American Idol.
1. Corey Clark claimed he had an affair with Paula Abdul
Clark, a contestant on Season 2 of American Idol, disclosed his allegations about the affair two years after he left the show — but, interestingly, that isn’t the only salacious detail relating to this infamous contestant. In fact, he was disqualified from the show for failing to disclose that he had several arrests on charges including the battery of four police officers and his sister, endangering the welfare of a child and resisting arrest.
In May 2005, Clark appeared on Primetime Live to give his account of his illicit three-month-long affair with Abdul while he was a contestant on the show. Fox had an independent counsel investigate Clark’s claims, which were not backed by any witnesses.
Abdul did admit to offering him career advice, but she never fully addressed the affair rumors. Abdul did not lose her position on the show, and Clark is now an Uber driver in Los Angeles.
2. Too professional for Idol
In Season 8, contestant Joanna Pacitti’s participation in the Top 36 Round raised a few eyebrows because she already had a professional recording contract with Geffen Records. Idol was supposed to be an amateur competition.
“It has been determined that Joanna Pacitti is ineligible to continue in the competition,” Fox said in a statement to Billboard. There were further rumors that Pacitti was already associated with several staffers at 19 Entertainment, Idol‘s production company, which further hurt her cause.
3. Voting controversies
Almost every season had a voting issue, but nothing was as big as “TextGate,” during the Season 8 finals between Kris Allen and Adam Lambert. Idol‘s sponsor, AT&T, provided free phones to text and call for Allen in his home state of Arkansas. At the party, company employees showed fans ways to power-vote for Allen, who wasn’t expected to win but did. One fan even admitted to voting for Allen 10,840 times in the final round.
Lambert fans felt the contest was rigged in favor of the more conservative Allen. Fox denied any wrongdoing and said that it was “absolutely certain that the results of this competition are fair, accurate and verified.”
4. Nicki Minaj versus Mariah Carey
Everyone knew that the addition of Nicki Minaj to the panel after Mariah Carey had already been hired for Season 12 was a ticking time bomb. Right away, TMZ had grainy footage of Minaj bickering with Carey, while Keith Urban was stuck in the middle and Randy Jackson stood up to stop the madness.
The diva versus diva moments continued all throughout the season, and not surprisingly, both women left the show after one season.
5. Mario Vasquez quits
In Season 4, Mario Vasquez made it to the Top 12 and then quit for a “personal, family thing” that his mother knew nothing about when Fox contacted her. Vasquez then said his exit was for artistic reasons.
“This decision I was contemplating throughout the whole competition,” he said on Live with Regis and Kelly in 2005. “It was a hard decision on my part. American Idol was wonderful with me. Personally, I felt like the competition wasn’t right for me.”
In 2007, Vasquez was accused of sexual harassment and sued by Magdaleno Olmos, an employee of Fremantle Media, which produced Idol. He claimed that Vasquez was forced to quit the show after producers learned about the incident. The case was sent to arbitration.
6. Phillip Phillips sues 19 Entertainment
In January 2015, Phillip Phillips, who won Season 11 in 2012, filed a petition with the California Labor Commissioner because he felt “manipulated” into accepting jobs that benefited 19 Entertainment and Idol’s sponsors rather than his own career.
“I am very grateful for the opportunities provided to me through appearing on American Idol,” he said to The Hollywood Reporter. “The value that the fans and the show have given to my career is not lost on me. However, I have not felt that I have been free to conduct my career in a way that I am comfortable with.”
The dispute was eventually settled in June 2017.
7. Frenchie Davis’ scandalous photos
During Season 2, the talented Frenchie Davis was forced to exit the show because topless photos of her turned up on an adult website. It was a huge scandal at the time, especially since Davis was considered a frontrunner on the show.
“I was up front about it from the beginning. I wanted to be honest because I would never compromise my integrity to be successful, ever, because that’s not true success,” Davis said.
She later competed on Season 1 of The Voice, where she reached the Top 8.
8. Brittany Kerr’s affair
Even though Brittany Kerr’s affair with married country singer Jason Aldean happened after her time on Idol, her name was associated with the show throughout the entire scandal. It was TMZ who caught the two of them making out and outed them to the public in September 2012.
“The actions I portrayed recently were not a representation of my true character,” she said in a statement. “But a lapse in judgment on my part.”
Of course, that isn’t the end of the story. Aldean divorced his first wife in 2013 and married Kerr in 2015. She gave birth to their son, Memphis, in 2017.
Will the reboot of American Idol bring us some new scandals? Find out when the show premieres on Sunday at 8/7c on ABC.