After two weeks of hearing Paula Abdul call him a liar, Fox call him an opportunist, and various American Idol stars past and present question his credibility, Corey Clark finally got to tell his side of the story on ABC's ''Primetime Live'' on Wednesday. During the special report, dubbed ''Fallen Idol,'' Clark backed his claim that Abdul coached him and slept with him during his rise to the final rounds of Idol in 2003 with a paper trail, a voicemail message, and other evidence.
Clark told Primetime's John Quinones that his relationship with Abdul started after an early qualifying performance, when he says an Abdul associate pressed a paper with her home phone number into his hand. Soon, he said, he was frequently sneaking from the contestants' hotel to her Hollywood Hills home. ''I felt like 007, like a spy mission,'' he said. At first, he said, she just offered him friendship and advice, ''all the ins and outs of the show,'' including tips on wardrobe and song choices.
She took him to a Sprint store to buy him a cellphone for their private conversations, a shopping trip Quinones said was confirmed by a store employee. Clark also produced phone bills showing dozens of calls to Abdul's home, some lasting for hours. He said she selected and paid for clothes, CDs, and hair stylists for him. She even soothed his throat with cough syrup prescribed to her, he said, displaying a cough syrup bottle with a prescription label made out in Abdul's name.
Clark said the friendship turned into a sexual relationship after a month. He said he would spend nights at her house, whose layout he described to Quinones. She continued to advise him and buy things for him, like clothes from the pricey Fred Segal boutique, for which Clark produced a receipt. He said she told him to sing Steve Perry's '80s solo hit ''Foolish Heart'' because fellow judge Randy Jackson would like it, having played bass on the recording. That prediction turned out to be true, and Clark's performance of the song won him a place among the 12 finalists.
He said their affair lasted the first three months of 2003, until he was booted from Idol for not revealing to producers or the network that he'd been arrested in late 2002 on a charge of assaulting his younger sister. (He would later plead no contest to a lesser charge of obstructing the legal process.) Since then, he said, he's had little contact with Abdul, save for a few phone calls.
Those calls accelerated, he said, in April, after tabloid The Globe revealed he was shopping a tell-all book proposal about his purported affair with Abdul. He played a voicemail message he said Abdul left for him the morning the story broke, telling him to say ''absolutely nothing'' to the press. She continued to call and urge him not to publish the book or talk about her, alternately threating him with legal action or offering to help his musical career.
Clark was apparently unintimidated; his slim volume, a 132-page book called They Told Me to Tell the Truth, So... The Sex, Lies and Paulatics of One of America's Idols, went on sale online within moments after the Primetime broadcast ended.
Clark's claim has raised questions of opportunism; the report showed him recording a single with lyrics describing his hurt feelings over his dashed relationship with Abdul, and like the single that launched Abdul's career, it's called ''Straight Up.'' Fox has noted that Clark didn't report Abdul's alleged improprieties at the time, so why is he bringing it up now? ''I need to set the record straight for myself,'' he told Quinones. ''Unfortunately, I need to set the record straight for her too because she was a part of it.'' He denied that his allegations are a publicity stunt meant to raise interest in his book and record projects. As he said he told Abdul during a recent phone conversation, ''I'm just cleaning up my pathway. If that involves getting your dirt off my pathway, then I gotta do that.''
Initially, there was little response from the Idol camp to Wednesday's ABC broadcast, save for the large bouquets of flowers Carrie Underwood and Vonzell Solomon presented to Abdul during Wednesday's results episode of Idol, broadcast half an hour before the Primetime report aired. On Thursday morning, however, Fox and the show's producers issued a statement reiterating their doubts about Clark's credibility and their assurances that they were looking into his allegations. ''Upon recently hearing rumors of Mr. Clark’s claims, we contacted him and requested that he detail his accusations to us,'' the statement said. ''That has yet to happen.'' Talking to Quinones again on Thursday's Good Morning America, Clark said he hadn't cooperated with the Fox probe because ''I don't have any interest in helping American Idol out whatsoever, because they haven't helped me out whatsoever. They made it very hard for me to do what I'm doing, which is my career.''
Idol officials also stated that they remained ''absolutely committed to the fairness of this competition'' and downplayed any possible impact that Abdul's alleged misconduct might have had on the outcome. ''Judges may offer opinions, but viewers vote using their own subjective criteria,'' the statement said, ''and it is the voters who ultimately determine each season’s American Idol.'' (Left unsaid was that Abdul's critiques may influence no one, since she lavishly praises every singer.) Asked if Abdul should be fired, Clark said Thursday, ''I don't know. I'm not attacking her at all. She just happens to be the key to getting this 900-pound gorilla off my back.''