'Idol's' Adam Lambert Downplays Reports of Voting Irregularities

AT&T reportedly told fans of "Idol" winner how to send illegal "block votes."

May 27, 2009, 1:57 PM

May 27, 2009— -- Adam Lambert, the "American Idol" runner-up, told ABC News Radio Wednesday that media reports suggesting he may have lost because "Idol" sponsor AT&T provided free text messaging services, along with lessons on casting blocks of votes to fans of the winner Kris Allen, are much ado about nothing.

Block voting or "power dialing" allows individuals to cast multiple votes at one time, either through a phone call or text message. It is prohibited under "American Idol" rules.

Many Lambert fans, known as Glamberts, think the rules were broken. Since Allen was announced as the winner last Wednesday, many have flooded online forums with messages contending vote irregularities.

One fan is even circulating an Internet petition to get Fox Broadcasting, which produces "Idol," to release its full voting results. On last week's final, the show's host Ryan Seacreast announced that nearly 100 million votes had been cast.

Since "Idol" never releases final vote tallies for the semifinalists, it is unclear if block voting could have affected the outcome this year.

According to an official statement from Fox and the show's producers, the final result will stand.

"Fox and the producers of 'American Idol' are absolutely certain that the results of this competition are fair, accurate and verified," the statement read. Kris Allen is, without a doubt, the American Idol. We have an independent third-party monitoring procedure in place to ensure the integrity of the voting process. In no way did any individuals unfairly influence the outcome of the competition."

AT&T agreed that it was unlikely a few individuals affected the outcome. Spokesperson Mark Siegel told ABCNews.com in a statement: "Last week, countless parties were held in homes, bars, and other public places across America to watch the 'American Idol' finale. In Arkansas, a few local AT&T employees were invited to attend two local watch parties organized by the community. Caught up in the enthusiasm of rooting for their hometown contestant, they brought a small number of demo phones with them and provided texting tutorials to those who were interested.

"Going forward, we will make sure our employees understand our sponsorship celebrates the competition, not individual contestants," the statement added. "That said, it's quite a leap to suggest that a few individuals could have impacted the final results."

Lambert supporters may still be hoping that the final result will be overturned, but the runner-up told ABC News, "I don't think that's going to happen."

MJ Santilli, who writes about "Idol" on her blog MJsBigBlog.com, doesn't think so either.

She believes that the services provided by AT&T representatives at two parties organized by fans in Conway, Ark., where Allen is from, had little impact on the final tally.

"I would categorically disagree that it swayed the competition," Santilli told ABCNews.com. "There is no proof of that.

"I think there were lots of signs that Allen was already beginning to gain momentum in the last weeks of the competition," she said. "Danny Gokey [the second runner-up] and Adam Lambert were polarizing throughout the completion. With Lambert, there were questions about his sexuality... With Gokey, there were questions about whether he was using the death of his wife for votes in an inappropriate way. I also think once Danny left, a lot of his votes went to Kris."

Santilli adds that the idea that AT&T gave Allen an unfair advantage is nonsense.

"This is not new. AT&T is a sponsor of 'Idol.' They will go to your viewing parties if you ask them," said Santilli, who posted a blog about the controversy. "It's the sales people who show up. There was no evidence that they were not at Adam's (viewing) parties. They would have been thrilled. They are selling phones. They don't care who wins."

Santilli said instructions for so-called power dialing, which can allow someone to send 10 or more texts by pressing a single button, are also available online, at most "Idol" fan sites.

But it may be a violation of the rules according to the "American Idol" Web site, which states: "A weekly monitoring procedure will be in place to prevent individuals from unfairly influencing the outcome of the voting by generating significant blocks of votes using technical enhancements," the rules state. "The producers reserve the right to remove any identified 'power dialing' votes. Note that this applies to both toll-free and Text Messaging votes."

Nevertheless, Santilli insists, "There is no conspiracy ... these crop up every single year. Fans of whoever lost always cry foul. This is the first time a major publication picked up on it."

Santilli refers to the New York Times story Tuesday that ran with the headline "AT&T May Have Swayed 'Idol' Results." The story pointed out that power texts have a greater effect on voting than do single text messages or calls to the show's toll-free phone lines.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette first reported details of voting support in a story last week about final viewing parties. The story said: "Fans at the Estes Stadium watch party took out wireless phones and started making calls and firing off text messages -- some voting on their own devices and others on phones borrowed from AT&T, which supplied about 50 display units and representatives to teach multiple "power texting.

"AT&T also made about 30 phones available in a "texting zone" at a watch party at the Peabody Little Rock hotel," the story added.