Howard Stern vs. 'American Idol'

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," April 5, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.


RYAN SEACREST, "AMERICAN IDOL" HOST: Haley, you are staying for another week.


Which means Gina leaves us tonight on "American Idol."


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Gina goes, which really means Sanjaya stays.

Tonight's big entertainment story could mean big trouble for "American Idol."

Radio shock jock, Howard Stern, is trying to kill America's highest- rated program with kindness for the weakest link. Stern is urging his viewers to reach out and vote for contestant Sanjaya Malakar, whose performances have consistently fallen flat.

And Howard's campaign seems to be working. Several contestants thought to have better voices than Sanjaya — like Stephanie, Chris and now Gina — have all been kicked off the show.

This has many "Idol" fans upset. They're even tuning out over the injustice, as Howard Stern found the key to bringing down the highest-rated show in prime time.

And what can "Idol" do to fight back?

With me now, FOX business correspondent, Dagen McDowell, who is a huge fan. Also a season four "Idol" finalist, Mikalah Gordon. She's a correspondent for "American Idol Extra" on FOX reality TV.

So, Michaela, last night Gina goes. This campaign to keep Sanjaya on the show. Do you think that's what's keeping him there?

MIKALAH GORDON, SEASON FOUR "IDOL" FINALIST: You know, I think that, as hard as Howard Stern is trying, last night we had 33 million votes, which has been the most this season. So, no matter how hard Howard Stern is trying, America is still voting.

And if Sanjaya is making it, I think he's making it because he's just making an impression on America, like everybody else.

DAGEN MCDOWELL, FOX BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I personally, John, I'm tuning in just to watch Sanjaya now, because he's throwing caution to the wind.

He is a true entertainer. He's out there. He's young, but he takes chances.

I'm tuning in just to see what his hairdo looks like.

GIBSON: You're the business reporter. But what about the ratings hit?

MCDOWELL: The ratings have been slipping in some of the recent shows compared to last year, but those were record-setting levels we saw last year.

And you can't — you just can't write this off and say that Howard Stern has damaged the credibility of this franchise, because, as Mikalah pointed out, you have a flood of fans who will overwhelm any damage that Howard Stern is trying to do.

GIBSON: So, Mikalah, Dagen's point about Sanjaya — he may not have the best voice, but she thinks he's turning out to be the best showman.

GORDON: You know, I think that in the entertainment business, of course you should have a great voice if you want to be a musician. But it is the whole package.

You have to have the look, you have to be entertainable. You have to — people have to want to watch you, whether it's in a good way or a bad way. And he does have that.

MCDOWELL: And by the way, Sanjaya is the number one searched "Idol" contestant on Yahoo. He has his fans. He makes young girls weep. He makes other people laugh, of course.

But, again...

GIBSON: So, Dagen...

MCDOWELL: I think that a lot of people are tuning in to watch him.

GIBSON: If you were in the job of being the producer of this show, how would you fight back against a campaign that tries to elect the worst performer?

MCDOWELL: Well, you let it play itself out. You don't get in the middle of it, because if fans are upset about the contestants not getting voted through who they love, then they will start calling in more.

You can't sit back and fuss that someone's getting voted through, if you don't pick up the phone and try and vote for your contestant. That's what you do.

GORDON: Right. Absolutely.

GIBSON: Mikalah, how does this work exactly? I mean, when you were a contestant, were you calling up your relatives and friends and saying, you know, "Get a phone tree going. You've got to get some votes for me."

GORDON: You know, when I finally got eliminated, I was so happy, because I didn't have to stay up for two hours and vote for myself anymore. I was exhausted.


I mean, my fingers hurt. I had to sing. I had to perform. It's not easy.

MCDOWELL: And John, by the way, the odds makers at, they're not putting Sanjaya as the winner, but right now they are putting him in the top five.

GIBSON: And Mikalah, you think he's going to be there till the end?

GORDON: You know, I think that whoever has the courage to go out there and do their own thing and just work on themselves deserves to be the "American Idol."

GIBSON: Mikalah Gordon and Dagen McDowell, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it. We'll see what happens with Sanjaya.

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