Is Something Wrong at 'American Idol'?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 29, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight, it's getting very personal between ABC News and FOX Broadcasting. Word is next Wednesday the ABC program "Primetime Live" will scorch the "American Idol" show, implying that host Paula Abdul (search) did some very untoward things.

We asked both programs to provide spokespeople; both declined. But ABC News has issued a press release, dubbing its segment "Fallen Idol." Doesn't sound good. And FOX is not saying anything publicly, but trust me, the company is not happy about this.

Joining us now is TV critic Linda Stasi from "The New York Post," which is owned by NewsCorp, also the owner of FOX, and Randee Dawn, senior editor at "The Hollywood Reporter."

We'll start with you, Ms. Dawn. We all know that Paula Abdul is the center of this investigation, if you want to call it that. And Ms. Abdul allegedly got involved with a contestant on the program.


O'REILLY: What else do we know?

DAWN: Well, I think that there's been a bunch of things thrown around. One of them is that she's coached him in some way, that she's given him information about how to deal on the show. You know, I think that those things are being thrown around, but again, nothing has been stated yet.

O'REILLY: Do you know who the contestant is?

DAWN: I believe his name is Corey Clark (search).

O'REILLY: And is he still in play on that program?

DAWN: No. He's off. I think he's got a book and possibly a record coming up, so you can look at...

O'REILLY: All right. But he had — he had exposure.

Now, Linda, you know, nobody is denying that Paula Abdul had a relationship, a physical relationship with this person, while he was competing in that program. Is this going to be a huge scandal?

LINDA STASI, "THE NEW YORK POST": I think it will be — I think it will be a huge scandal. But on the other hand, she's not a judge. They...

O'REILLY: What do you mean she's not a judge?

STASI: They give opinions, but it's the people who call in who make the numbers.


STASI: So unless she had 400,000 of her friends on speed dial, she wasn't — she wasn't making the decision.

O'REILLY: I see what you're saying, but her opinion is put out there to sway people, is it not?

STASI: The worst thing that she's ever said about anybody is, "Oh, I'm not sure." She's so sweet you could get diabetes just listening to her. What could she possibly do? The best thing she would have done is say, "He stunk." At least he would have stood out.

O'REILLY: OK. But there's big money here, you know, for the winners of these programs.

STASI: He didn't win. He was in the second season...

O'REILLY: But she didn't know he wasn't going to win, and there's big money on the line. And remember the scandals of the '50s with "21" and all of this stuff?

STASI: But that was fixed. This isn't fixed. This is set — it can't be fixed, because it's the viewers who vote.

O'REILLY: So you don't — you think this is much ado about nothing?

STASI: I think that "Primetime" should get back to when they say they have a big special, Bosnian death camps. --That's a big special. Paula Abdul's sex life ain't cuttin' it.

O'REILLY: So you — all right. To you this is all...

STASI: No. It's juicy and it's fun, but...

O'REILLY: I don't know how much fun it is for Ms. Abdul.

STASI: No, I know. But for the rest of us.

O'REILLY: But look — wait, wait, wait. But NewsCorp, which owns FOX Broadcasting, has a responsibility to put on a program that is up front. And if one of the three principals is fooling around with one of the contestants that's competing, and nobody knows that, whoa.

DAWN: It's ethically questionable. It — you know, but whether or not it has an effect on the final result, which means that people shouldn't be watching the show because they're watching something that's rigged, that's a whole other story. You said a little bit earlier that no one has denied this. I think Paula Abdul has tried to deny it, or is getting ready to deny it.

O'REILLY: I didn't hear that. Did you hear that?

STASI: I think that — I think what she said is that they're — have a countersuit against them.

O'REILLY: She didn't say she didn't sleep with the guy? I didn't hear that.

STASI: I don't think she said she didn't sleep with the guy.

DAWN: She's always denied it.


STASI: I liked her better when she was saucy anyway. She's become so saccharin.

O'REILLY: I mean, I don't want to get involved with the tabloid, what she did with the guy. What I'm worried about here is the corporation. Because you've got to be up front, even in an entertainment vehicle.

If it's going to be WWF, let's call it WWF. But if the folks think that these people are competing, and they're being judged by these three people, and then they call in, and then one of them is physically involved while he's competing, that's not right. That's not right.

STASI: But they aren't the judges.

O'REILLY: I — I got that, Linda, but it's not right! -- They should have said "Paula fooling around with this guy." Then I'd be OK with it.

STASI: But if she — if she was actually nice to this guy and not nice to other people.


STASI: She's — I'm talking about on the air.

O'REILLY: OK. All right. OK.


STASI: But if she was — if she was unkind to everyone else.

O'REILLY: All right.

STASI: She's physically incapable, genetically incapable of being anything but nice to everybody.

O'REILLY: All right.

DAWN: She's always a good person on that show.

O'REILLY: Now, Ms. Dawn, there is bad blood in the corporate boardrooms, because there's an enormous amount of money on the line. "American Idol" is a huge hit. All right? One of the biggest hits in television history.

DAWN: Sure.

O'REILLY: And they're now looking at ABC going, "Hey, you're hurting our bottom line here." How intense is this?

DAWN: Well, you know, whether or not there's a corporate fight between ABC and FOX...

O'REILLY: There is, trust me.

DAWN: There's been a lot of sniping in the back — in the back rooms about, "Gee, you know, we had a show and then FOX took our idea," or you know, "We wanted to pitch a show and, you know, FOX suddenly came up with their own version."

But "Primetime Live (search)" has done this before. Just last September they were doing something where they did an expose on "The Apprentice (search)," and Trump came out and said, "I'm going to file a lawsuit if you say bad things about me."

So this is kind of becoming "Primetime Live's" sad M.O. But...

O'REILLY: Why sad? You think they shouldn't be doing this?

DAWN: As you were saying earlier, it's like, you know — people talk about the decline of news on television. I mean, tell us real news. Not that this isn't real news but...

O'REILLY: But look, I've got to tell you, ladies, I do the hardest news program in the country. All right? We're the toughest boys on the block. If somebody told me this story, I would do this story.


O'REILLY: Because America is engaged at — on this program.

STASI: But would you give it a full hour in prime time?

O'REILLY: No, I wouldn't. I wouldn't. I wouldn't give it a full hour, but I would say that, listen, we don't want shows to be run this way. I just don't think this is good.

And I think FOX would agree with me. If FOX knew about it, I'm sure they would have put it to an end. I don't think FOX would have said, "Hey, Paula, that's a good thing." I don't think so, Linda.

STASI: No, I'm sure they wouldn't have said that, but if you're going to say that she these things — that she made a difference in the outcome or had an ability— she didn't.

O'REILLY: I'm not going to say that. Right. Well, the guy didn't win. So that's — that's the proof.

STASI: And he's hawking a book. So who the heck knows what he's doing? I mean, one half a season on "American Idol"?

O'REILLY: How old is this guy? Do we know how old this guy is?

DAWN: In his early 20's. I mean, that's...

O'REILLY: And she's like 40, right?

DAWN: Something like that.

O'REILLY: All right. All right. And again, I'm not making any judgments about what anybody's doing.

STASI: Yes, you are!

O'REILLY: No, I'm not. No, I'm not. I am absolutely not making any judgments about it. I just want to get the facts out on the table. I don't — do you think I care what Paula Abdul does?

STASI: That's exactly — that's exactly...

O'REILLY: I couldn't care less. But I don't want it — I don't want her doing it while this thing is going on.

STASI: Right. She just...

O'REILLY: If she was to date him after, I'll buy the limo.

STASI: Well, we just said that we don't know that she didn't date him after, anyway, because we don't even know what it is.

O'REILLY: Well, ABC is going to allege, while this was going on, they were fooling around.

STASI: But — but on the other hand, you know, we can't say that FOX and our shows haven't gone after "Desperate Housewives (search)" and all this stuff, too. You know, it's become part of the entertainment news...

O'REILLY: It's a brawl.


O'REILLY: It's a brawl is what it is.

STASI: Yes, a brawl.

O'REILLY: A lot of money involved.

Ladies, thanks very much.

STASI: Thank you.

O'REILLY: We appreciate it.

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