NEW YORK – On the eve of an "exposé" that will purportedly reveal "explosive" allegations about the runaway Fox hit "American Idol," Constantine Maroulis (search), the contestant most recently voted off the show, defended judge Paula Abdul (search), the expected focus of the special.
Regarding rumors that ABC News will report that Abdul secretly helped one of last season's contestants, Maroulis, who was voted off the show last week, told FOX: "That's absurd."
Maroulis also said he never noticed Abdul — one of the sultry rocker's biggest fans — "helping out" certain contestants.
"Absolutely not. I mean, she's — she's an awesome, awesome person, and she's ... an inspiration to all of us really, equally," he told "FOX and Friends" Tuesday morning.
He said the contestants "don't really see the judges much."
"They sort of like show up. They're like stars, you know?" he said.
Ads for the hour-long "Primetime Live" report by anchor John Quinones, scheduled to air Wednesday night right after "Idol," promise the program will "explore explosive claims about behind-the-scenes activities" at "American Idol."
ABC has declined to provide hints of what will be covered, but it's rumored the focus will be on Corey Clark (search), who was bounced from the show in 2003 for not disclosing that he was facing charges that he assaulted his teenage sister and resisted arrest.
Clark ultimately pleaded no contest to "obstructing legal process."
He also is reportedly claiming to have had an affair with Abdul while he was a contestant on the show. In a tabloid interview, Clark said he was hawking a tell-all book.
Dancer-singer Abdul, known for her upbeat critiques of even the most hopeless "American Idol" contestants, punched back at him and ABC. Her lawyer sent a letter to the network threatening legal action if the special aired.
"Mr. Clark is an admitted liar and opportunist who engages in unlawful activities. He is communicating lies about Paula Abdul in order to generate interest in a book deal," said a statement issued on her behalf.
Simon Cowell (search), the show's most critical judge, defended Abdul on the syndicated entertainment show "Extra" last Tuesday.
"Paula, to be fair to her, will spend more time backstage with the contestants giving encouragement. But that's not a bad thing," Cowell said. "I think [the accusations] are rubbish. I think this is a guy who's out there to publish a book."
Abdul has also been battling rumors that she is addicted to drugs. Despite a neuropathic disorder and 12 operations, Abdul said she's "not addicted to pills of any kind."
"If people only knew what I've gone through with pain and pills," Abdul, 42, told the May 2 issue of People magazine. "I'm dancing for joy at the fact that not even a year ago, I was in so much pain I could barely get up."
In yet another headache for Abdul, the former "Laker girl" was fined and sentenced to two years' probation last month after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor count of hit-and-run driving.
Abdul is not the only focus of "Idol" scandal this season.
Last week, it was reported that rocker Bo Bice (search), a finalist, had been arrested twice in the past four years on drug charges. The charges were dismissed after he completed a diversion program.
Fox said it stood by Bice, who it said had been candid about his past. The network also sniped at "various salacious gossip Web sites" that had dished about Bice.
Controversy also flared when incorrect call-in numbers were displayed for three contestants in March. Fox added an episode to re-do the vote, prompting mutterings that the whole flap was a stunt staged to get higher ratings. A producer dismissed such speculation as "rubbish."
In yet another odd incident this season, finalist Mario Vazquez abruptly quit without explanation.
Then there's contestant Scott Savol (search), who has somehow managed to make it to the finals in spite of arrogance, a relative lack of charisma and the news that he had been arrested in 2001 on a felony domestic violence charge after a confrontation with his fiancée.
Savol ultimately pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct.
But Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University, said even if Clark's claim of an affair with Abdul turns out to be true, he thinks the show will be safe.
"I don't think that changes anything," Thompson said. "I think in a perverse sort of way it makes it more interesting."
Jason Rich, author of "American Idol 4: Official Behind-the-Scenes Fan Book," said he had free access to contestants and the production for the book and for a third-season guide. He defends the show's integrity.
"Based on what I've seen this season and last, I have not seen any scandal worth an hour of a prime-time television exposé. I haven't heard of anything, even if they wanted to grasp at straws," Rich said.
Indeed, the hot gossip hasn't cooled the ratings. The series is averaging nearly 28 million weekly viewers for Tuesday's performance broadcasts, and more than 25 million for Wednesday's results half-hour, bettering last season by several million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Boosted by a group of older, more accomplished contestants, the show's twice-weekly airings hold the No. 2 and 3 ratings spots for the season so far in households and the No. 1 and 3 spots in total viewers.
The ABC exposé has been shrugged off by many as a predictable stunt, considering its timing: May is the month of ratings "sweeps," a period used to set ad rates for local television stations.
The show's season finale airs May 24-25.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.