And now, for a change of pace from politics and economic gloom, a scandal of a different stripe: Fans of "American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert are charging that the final outcome was rigged by AT&T.
Lambert's showmanship and vocal pyrotechnics made him the heavy favorite to win this season's "Idol" crown, but he was upset in the last round by the less gifted but more clean-cut Kris Allen. Lambert fans are complaining that AT&T let Allen fans use free demo phones at viewing parties to text in their votes and even provided instruction in how to send blocks of up to 10 votes at a time - something that supposedly is against "Idol" rules.
Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of the ultra-liberal The Nation magazine (and a Lambert fan), smells a rat:
"Okay, I know the stealing of American Idol 2009 isn't on par with the stealing of the 2000 [presidential] election. But for American Idol fan(atic)s, and I confess I am one, Wednesday's New York Times report that AT&T workers in Arkansas, Kris Allen's home state, 'might have influenced the outcome of this year's competition by providing phones for free text-messaging services and lessons in casting blocks of votes at parties organized by fans of Allen' deserves to be investigated by a non-partisan commission with full subpoena power."
After noting that AT&T didn't throw any voting parties for Lambert, Vanden Heuvel goes on to say that although Lambert supporters "have flooded online chat boards with messages claiming irregularities in the voting ... the official American Idol website reads like a Soviet-era information site: no news of the emerging scandal anywhere to be found. Officials at Fox declined to talk about the situation. And AT&T reps are also mum.
"Was the outcome unfairly influenced by corporate sponsor AT&T eager to have Allen as this year's Idol? Did it consider Allen a better pitchman for its products? We deserve answers. Otherwise, Idol fans - tune out next season."
TIME magazine columnist James Poniewozik thinks Lambert fans are blowing this out of proportion:
"The Hollywood Reporter did some back-of-the-envelope calculations and figured - given that the free phones were at only two viewing parties in the entire nation - that even if as many votes as possible were cast on the free phones they would barely have made a dent in the overall total. More important, as I've said before, it's a little hard to figure out how to quantify fairness and unfairness in an 'election' decided by people voting as many times as they want over the phone.
However, Poniewozik continued, "I agree ... that, to the extent that Idol wants its vote to be perceived as legitimate (say, so as not to undermine the career of the winner), it ought to release the vote totals after each season."
The Eye - who, like Vanden Heuvel, was a Lambert supporter - concurs. Fox, come clean NOW!