Fox entertainment president Peter Liguori said the show's credibility is important.
By MARK WASHBURN
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
LOS ANGELES -- An independent investigation has been launched into Paula Abdul's conduct on "American Idol," a top Fox executive said Thursday, and results will be soon shared publicly.
Peter Liguori, the network's entertainment president, said an independent counsel has interviewed both Abdul, a judge on the talent competition, and Corey Clark, a failed contestant who says he was coached by Abdul and ultimately drawn into a sex affair with her.
Abdul has denied some of the elements of Clark's story, Liguori said, but he would not go into detail.
"Some allegations were denied," Liguori said. "I don't want to get into the guts of it."
"American Idol" is more than Fox's top show and the catalyst for propelling the network from the ranks of also-rans to the top in ratings; it is the centerpiece of the network's strategy to attract young viewers and has become a cultural phenomenon since its launch in 2002.
"The credibility of that competition is incredibly important to us," said Liguori, speaking to TV critics gathered for fall previews.
When asked whether a judge sleeping with a contestant was a fireable offense, Liguori deferred, saying he would not engage in "speculation."
He also said that he saw no reason for Abdul to absent herself from judging if the investigation isn't complete by the new season's first round of auditions, scheduled for Aug. 18 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.
The controversy began in May, when Clark went on ABC's "Primetime Live" and described a secret relationship with Abdul that began with her coaching him on song selection, buying him clothes and paying for hair styling in the 2003 season's preliminary rounds. It moved on to a sexual relationship, he said.
"When she was dropping me off one night, she leaned over and kissed me in her car," Clark said. She was 40; he was 22.
During a subsequent meeting at her Hollywood Hills mansion, Clark said, they were watching a taped episode of "American Idol" when she came up and started kissing him on his neck. They became intimate that night, he said.
Kicked off show
Clark was kicked off "American Idol" after producers learned he had been arrested in a domestic dispute with his sister and hadn't disclosed it to the show. Ruben Studdard ultimately won the competition.
Abdul never addressed the allegations head-on, but released a statement after the story broke calling Clark a "liar" and suggesting he was trying to generate interest in a tell-all memoir and gain publicity for an album he was recording.