By now, most people know that reality TV isn't exactly, well, real.
Yet, contestants can still manage to fool producers, judges and the audiences watching. The latest example is Timothy Michael Poe, a contestant on NBC's "America's Got Talent," who told the judges that he speaks with a stutter due to combat injuries he sustained while serving in Afghanistan; yet he managed to give a tear-inducing performance of Garth Brooks' "If Tomorrow Never Comes."
After Poe received a standing ovation Monday and three "yes" votes from judges Howie Mandel, Sharon Osbourne and Howard Stern, advancing him to the next round in Las Vegas, the Minnesota National Guard revealed that the military has no record of his alleged injuries.
According to official records, Poe served with the Minnesota Army National Guard from December 2002 through May 2011, working as a supply specialist. Records show he was deployed in Kosovo from Oct. 10, 2007, to July 15, 2008, and then served in Afghanistan for about a month in 2009 but was never hit by a grenade or suffered a broken back or brain injury, as he told the judges.
An NBC spokesperson said the network and Poe had no comment, but Poe told TMZ Wednesday that his injury and stutter are real and the fact that there's no record of the incident is a common problem in the military. Though he says he was treated at military hospitals in Landstuhl, Germany, and San Antonio, Texas, he did not provide the website any records to prove it.
Stern, for one, felt swindled by Poe.
"You could be the most f***ed up liar on the planet, but you never lie about your military service," he said Wednesday morning on his SiriusXM satellite radio show. "This lie is so wrong on so many levels. ...This really sickens me."
Stern said that he nearly cried because of Poe's story. "I thought I was about to lose it and cry for the guy. That's how upset I was for him," he said.
Poe told the AGT judges he had been encouraged to sing in the shower by his speech therapist as a way to help with his vocal impediment. In the taped segment, Poe also recalled his feelings during his recovery, saying, "When I was laying there, I thought I'd never see my daughter walk down the aisle or throw the baseball with my son or be able to hold them and see them.... I didn't want my life to be over."
Now that his hoax has been revealed, his time on "America's Got Talent" is most likely over.
Click through to see four other reality show contenders who turned out to be pretenders.
Jermaine Jones, the 6-foot-eight baritone who had been dubbed the "gentle giant" on this past season of "American Idol," originally told the show's producers that his father had abandoned him and his mother 10 years ago. But when the dad denied the singer's claims, producers began looking more closely at Jones's background. What they found was a criminal record, including outstanding warrants that Jones had allegedly concealed from producers. Jones, who had been brought back by the judges after being dropped from the top 24, was booted for good. "Awww I will no longer b on the show," he tweeted before his Twitter account was deleted.
Considered by many to be one of the most memorable contestants on "Survivor," Russell Hantz actually appeared on the show three times. The first time, during Season 19 in Samoa, he virtually re-invented the game by lying about his background. He claimed that he was a victim of Hurricane Katrina and lost his family dog in the flooding. He wasn't. Nor was there a dog. He also claimed he was already a millionaire. He wasn't.
Despite his lying and cheating ways, he made it all the way to the final, where he lost to Natalie White. In the next season, "Heroes vs. Villains," Hantz was cast as, you guessed it, a villain, and once again made it to the final before losing out on the million-dollar prize. Now, he's returned to reality TV, in a new show, "Flipped Off," in which he stars alongside brother Shawn and real estate agent Kristen Bredehoeft as they attempt to flip houses.
Brian Heidik was one of the more memorable winners of "Survivor." Blonde and buff, he was identified by CBS as a "used car salesman" on the show's fifth season which was broadcast in fall 2002. Less than a week later, The Smoking Gun website revealed that the only thing Heidik was selling was porn. Under the name David Roth -- presumably a nod to Van Halen's David Lee Roth -- Heidik was the star of several soft-core pornographic films, including "Virgins of Sherwood Forest," "Passions Obsession," "Sinful Obsession" and "The Pleasure Zone."
After the discovery, the show's spokeswoman said CBS was "absolutely aware" of Heidik's soft-core past, but a columnist for E! claimed the network only learned about it after an editor "recognized" Heidik's distinctive tiger tattoo on his right shoulder. Despite his purple past, Heidik went on to win the million dollars, but his estranged wife said his life later spiralled "out of control," including an arrest for domestic battery and cruelty to animals after he allegedly shot a puppy with an arrow.
Being voted the most hated reality-show contestant of all time in a 2005 TV Guide survey was apparently not enough for "The Apprentice" contestant Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth. Known only by her first name, Omarosa wasn't just fired by Donald Trump in the first season of the show. It turned out that the reality villain had been bounced from four jobs in two years with the Clinton administration before joining the show. She later stirred up trouble by accusing fellow contestant Ereka Vetrini of using racial slurs, a charge which Vetrini denied.
But Omarosa's knack for offending others hasn't stopped her from appearing on some 20 reality shows, including "Celebrity Apprentice." She recently landed a job as as West Coast Editor of Reality Weekly magazine, talking about an industry she knows all too well.