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Clay Fans Wonder If There Is Conspiracy Theory With 'American Idol'

Posted May 23, 2003

— People across the country say they tried for hours to vote on the "American Idol" final, but they never got through, which left people wondering whether there is a conspiracy.

Talk of a "Clay rip-off" swirled around lunch tables all over the Triangle. Ruben Studdard beat Clay Aiken with 50.28 percent of the 24 million votes cast by callers.

Lisa Smithdeal claims she tried to call 301 times.

"There were an awful lot of busy signals mixed in with the calls that actually went through," she said.

Smithdeal said her secret was she just kept dialing on the old kitchen wall phone, but her friend, Julia Dixon, watched as a family member tried to get through.

"They called for the entire three hours, one person and never voted," she said.

Officials for the Fox network said they got complaints from all over the country about calls not getting through for Clay. They say the entire phone process was fair and blame local phone companies for the busy signals. BellSouth officials say they transferred 3 million calls from North Carolina during the voting Tuesday night.

"We did an analysis of the telephone network and we found no blockage, no busy signals, no blocked calls. All the calls originating on the BellSouth network in North Carolina did go out," said John McKinney of BellSouth.

Faye Parker, Clay's mom, is not worried about the controversy and is still pleased with the experience.

"When someone tells you that you put a record out and it's No. 1 already on Amazon.com, what can I say," she said. "He's happy and I'm thrilled and they are both winners."

BellSouth officials say the busy signals came during the many transfers down the line to Los Angeles. Fox officials say Clay is not upset, so despite the phone frustration, his fans should not be either.

A company in Evansville, Ind., received about 250,000 phone calls from "American Idol" viewers. Its phone number is just one digit off. The confusion certainly did not sit well with Clay fans, but the company did keep track of the votes and claims Clay got twice as many as Ruben.

Despite the loss, Clay's career is already taking off. He walked away from Wednesday's show with a recording contract and an agent. He is already headed into the recording studio.

Clay's single is due out in two weeks. It will go head to head with Ruben's first single. The goal is to have both of their albums out in December.


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