TV Article

Plot Twisters

Was Jennifer's ''Idol'' ouster an act of God? Midwestern tornados caused a Chicago power outage that may have kept Hudson's hometown fans from voting

Jennifer Hudson, American Idol | POWER OUTAGE Was Hudson the victim of a vote split... or a tornado?
Image credit: American Idol: Ray Mickshaw
POWER OUTAGE Was Hudson the victim of a vote split... or a tornado?

After Jennifer Hudson's shocking ouster on Wednesday's ''American Idol,'' conspiracy theories have abounded, blaming the talented singer's rejection on all kinds of mysterious forces. One theory, propounded by TV's ''Extra,'' blames it on an act of God, noting that a power outage in Hudson's hometown of Chicago that was caused by two Midwestern tornados knocked out the voting ability of 15,000 potential Hudson fans.

''I really don’t think it had anything to do with her performance,'' said guest judge Barry Manilow, who appeared on Thursday's ''Extra.'' ''I think the American public is feeling and seeing something else that I don’t see.'' Other theories suggested that teenybopper fans (who might favor cute but bland John Stevens) have too much influence, or that fans armed with power dialers are skewing the process, a theory echoed by judge Paula Abdul on Thursday's ''Entertainment Tonight.''  That charge has been leveled in previous seasons during the ouster of Tamyra Gray and Ruben Studdard's squeaker victory over Clay Aiken. Another theory, voiced by many message board posters at the ''Idol'' website (and at EW.com), blames fan racism for the fact that the talented trio of African-American divas -- Hudson, Fantasia Barrino, and La Toya London -- ended up in the bottom three this week. But that theory discounts the fact that Hudson was the first black finalist voted off this season, and that Barrino, London, and George Huff remain in contention.

Another theory was that the divas split the vote -- after all, Ryan Seacrest said that the vote was one of the closest ever. (Fox never releases the voting tallies, so it's not clear how many votes separated the divas from each other, or from the top four finishers.) Hudson herself cited voter complacency when she appeared on Seacrest's daytime show, ''On Air with Ryan Seacrest,'' on Thursday. ''I think people just take it for granted because it's Fantasia, Jennifer and LaToya, and we are the divas,'' she said ''They just assume we'd be fine so they decided to help out somebody else... and just left us hanging.'' For their part, ''Idol'''s producers used the controversy to urge people to keep watching. ''As proven with [Wednesday night's] results, you can never assume that any contestant is safe,'' executive producer Ken Warwick said in a statement. ''You can never assume that they have enough votes. It's imperative that viewers vote for their favorite 'Idol' every week.''

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Originally posted Apr 23, 2004