Drudge links several pieces on last night’s American Idol, which was won by a fat man from Birmingham by the slimmest of margins. The Sacramento Bee reports an overload of the phone system after Tuesday night’s show.

However, in a low-stakes replay of the 2000 presidential contest, the outcome conflicts with the polling results and is highly controversial. WaPo reports that the producers of the show essentially rigged the contest so that Studdard would win:

The “American Idol” producers, however, had to have gone tingly all over with the outcome, having labored for weeks to influence viewers to vote for Studdard.

From the get-go, acid-tongued judge Simon Cowell, who is also one of the show’s executive producers, spared Studdard all discussion of his weight, for instance, while harshly criticizing the physiques of other contestants.

When even irritatingly uncritical judge Paula Abdul had issues with Studdard’s performance, Cowell checked himself. And he was furious with viewers when Studdard landed in the bottom two a few weeks back.

* * *
Don’t take our word for it; contestant Kimberley Locke said as much last week before she got the heave-ho, telling Newsweek that Simon had said at every opportunity “they want Ruben”; the magazine also reported that Cowell said that “what you’re trying to do, if you can, is to tell the audience who you want to be in the final. You’re not getting accurate judging.”

The producers care who wins because they are compelled to sign him or her to a $1 million recording contract and management deal. Clearly they think they know how to market Studdard.

Regardless of the manipulation, Studdard’s 1335 vote victory–out of 24 million votes–was a surprise to many:

Washington-based business intelligence and marketing firm New Media Strategy, which had put out a news release forecasting a close Aiken win. (NMS CEO Pete Snyder, former pollster for former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, is the guy who nicknamed Studdard the “Round Mound of Sound.”)

And the people at, who reported earlier this week that Aiken’s not-yet-released single was the Web site’s top-selling CD, while Studdard’s was way back at No. 386.

Drudge also splashes the headlines “Calls for Audit Hit ‘Idol'” and “‘I think we are looking at a modern day version of the $64k,000 question!” with no link or sourcing.

Update (12:17): Drudge now has an actual story. It turns out to be, shockingly, less dramatic than the headline:

“Listen, I’ve been around Hollywood for a long, long time, and this reeks of a contrived, phony ending,” a top executive from a rival network charged Thursday morning. “No one here believes for one second the votes landed just 1,300 apart. It’s a disgrace… in fact, I think we are looking at a modern day version of the $64,000 question!”

So, it’s a jealous executive from a competing network who was the source of both quotes above.

And, as Tom Royce points out in the comments section below, the narrow results were virtually guaranteed given the voting method chosen.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tom says:

    The fatal flaw in the process was the number of circuits. If there are 100 lines available to each contestant, and the call volume exceeds the capacity of lines, then statistically it is impossible for it not to be a near dead heat. The only diffenciating factor would be the speed that the call is handled if all things being equal.

    For this to be fair, the number of lines available to the process has to exceed the call volume by at a minimum of 10%. This allows the vote total to be an accurate representation of the voters, not a mechanical process.

    Just saw that Clay has hired 100 lawyers to flood the records at SBC, and look for voter discrepancies. He thinks this will need to go to the US Supreme Court. In the meantime, Aiken is going to the Florida State Supreme Court for a emergency injunction to overturn the vote total…

  2. James Joyner says:

    Interesting. I didn’t follow the show, other than seeing parts of the last few episodes while in the weight room of my townhouse complex. I didn’t realize that they had used such a bizarre process to tabulate the votes.

    I also understand that several people in Palm Beach County intended to vote for Aiken but, inexplicably, wound up voting for Pat Buchanan.

  3. Tom says:

    Sounds like a C-O-N-spiracy to me!

    Call in the Guard…

  4. Rob w says:

    But, Clay won florida, that spiky haired guy even said it.