10 Biggest American Idol Controversies

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A golden ticket does not guarantee a smooth ride! Since its debut in June 2002, American Idol has been the subject of countless scandals and controversies surrounding the show, its judges, and its participants.

Caleb Kennedy was booted from season 19 of “American Idol” after a tumultuous video surfaced on social media.

Caleb Kennedy.

Kennedy, 16, was one of the top five contenders on this season’s “American Idol.” A Snapchat video of Kennedy filmed when he was supposedly 12 years old leaked earlier this month. In the footage, Kennedy is seated next to someone who looks to be wearing a Ku Klux Klan-style white hood.

Producers say Corey Clark failed to reveal his criminal history; thus, he was disqualified. He then revealed that he had a romantic involvement with judge Paula Abdul.

corey clark american idol

Clark was one of the top nine finalists in season two in 2002, but he was disqualified after The Smoking Gun discovered his criminal past. “American Idol” said Clark lied about not having a record, but Clark insisted he’d never hidden his history and that there was more to the tale.

During season 12, the simmering hostility between judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey made headlines.

american idol nicki minaj mariah carey

Keith Urban, Carey, and Minaj joined the legendary Randy Jackson as judges for Season 12. Minaj and Carey clashed almost immediately, and their fight became the stuff of “Idol” history. Things to a head in October 2012, when TMZ published a video of Minaj ranting about Carey in a profanity-laced tirade.

After topless images of Frenchie Davis leaked on the internet, she was disqualified from season two.

Frenchie Davis

Davis was removed from the show in February 2003 after she “admitted to the producers that she worked for a porn website four years earlier,” according to Entertainment Weekly. According to the source, it’s unsure why this would result in a ban from the program — in season one, a contender who worked as a stripper made it all the way to the final three.

Antonella Barba, on the contrary, was allowed to stay on her season of “American Idol” despite the release of naked pictures of her.

antonella barba american idol

Barba, who was dubbed “tone-deaf” by Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield, reached the top eight of Season 6 in 2007, despite the fact that nude images of her had appeared on the internet, a crime that had previously resulted in Davis’ disqualification from the competition. “It’s insane. I was like ‘wow’.  A little taken aback” At the time of Fox’s decision, Davis recalled.

Sanjaya Malakar finished eighth in season six, much to Simon Cowell’s dismay.

Getty Images Sanjaya Malakar american idol

Malakar impressed the judges at his audition, and he progressed through Hollywood and onto the live performances. However, he became a phenomenon when he began to stay while other outstanding participants were sent home. Vote for the Worst, a website committed to keeping the “worst” candidates in the competition, chose Malakar. Howard Stern also urged his audience to vote for him in order for him to “spoil America’s No. 1 show.”

During season 16, Katy Perry stole contestant Benjamin Glaze’s first kiss away from him, which offended several fans.

katy perry kisses benjamin glaze american idol

Perry’s kiss with 19-year-old Glaze was one of the most talked-about stories during the inaugural season of the rebooted “American Idol” in 2018. Glaze began his audition by confessing to the judges that he had never been kissed. Perry motioned for him to come over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. She then asked him to kiss her cheek again, but she turned her head at the last second so he could kiss her on the lips.

Some people were suspicious of the program because of the narrow gap between the winner Ruben Studdard and the runner-up Clay Aiken in season two.

clay aiken ruben studdard

Some people were surprised when Aiken lost to Studdard because he had been the popular favorite throughout the season. When host Ryan Seacrest misspoke when presenting the vote results with the public, it didn’t help matters. For starters, he claimed Studdard had won by only 13,000 votes. Then he corrected himself, saying the margin was considerably less, 1,335 votes. Finally, Fox clarified that 130,000 votes were cast.

Jennifer Hudson’s removal in season three is still remembered as one of the most stunning moments in the show’s history.

jennifer hudson american idol

Hudson’s elimination sparked a lot of discussion at the time, including one notion about a hypothetical Chicago power outage making it difficult for her hometown to support her. The “Three Divas” narrative claimed that Hudson, Fantasia Barrino, and LaToya London had somehow cancelled each other out.

Jeff Archuleta, David Archuleta’s father, was reportedly barred from backstage during Season 7.

david archuleta father jeff

During a performance of The Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out,” Archuleta, an early favorite during season seven in 2008, appeared to be having a hard time. Sources informed ET at the time that his bad performance was spurred by his father’s “yelling” at him during a recording session. The site also claimed that the senior Archuleta had been barred from performing on “Star Search” while his son was on the show, which was true.

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