"American Idol" sponsor AT&T has come under fire after it was revealed employees of the company handed out cell phones at Kris Allen parties in his home state of Arkansas and taught people how to cast blocks of votes.
AT&T confirmed the news, first reported by the New York Times, but said their employees handed out the phones after being swept up in the moment.
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"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," AT&T said in a statement. "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."
According to the NY Times, the AT&T employees gave instructions to partygoers on how to send "power texts" — at least 10 messages with just one click. Rules allow for only AT&T subscribers to text vote. Additionally, blocks of text votes can be tossed out per, "Idol" rules.
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The paper reported that similar events were not held for Adam Lambert, who finished second.
AT&T said they do not believe the actions of their employees affected the outcome.
"Going forward, we will make sure our employees understand our sponsorship celebrates the competition, not individual contestants. That said, it's quite a leap to suggest that a few individuals could have impacted the final results," AT&T's statement concluded.
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And in a joint statement, FOX and 19 Entertainment, the producers of the show, also said they do not believe the AT&T employees' actions affected the results of the show.
"FOX and the producers of 'American Idol' are absolutely certain that the results of this competition are fair, accurate and verified. Kris Allen is, without a doubt, the American Idol," the statement read. "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."
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