Story is at: http://apnews.myway.com/article/20050813/D8BUKR301.html
Aug 12, 9:31 PM (ET)
By LYNN ELBER
LOS ANGELES (AP) - "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul will remain with the hit Fox TV series after an investigation found no proof that she had an affair with a contestant or helped him on the talent show, the network said Friday.
Lawyers who investigated claims by unsuccessful contestant Corey Clark of a sexual relationship with Abdul could not substantiate his allegations, Fox said.
"Paula Abdul, therefore, can continue as a judge on 'American Idol,'" the network and series producers said in a statement.
But "an enhanced non-fraternization policy" will be added to prevent future incidents that could appear to call into question the relationship between judges, contestants or any others connected to "American Idol," they said.
"I'm grateful this ordeal is over, and I'm so looking forward to getting back to the job I love," Abdul said in a statement. "Once again, I thank my fans from throughout the world for their undying love and support."
Clark's allegations, which Abdul denied, cast a shadow over television's most-watched show, a water-cooler phenomenon that has become a key part of Fox's ratings success. The claims first surfaced in a tabloid story and were then detailed in an ABC News report.
Last month, Fox announced that it hired independent counsel to look into the issue. Clark was a contestant on season two.
"Any allegations against this show we take quite seriously," Fox Entertainment President Peter Liguori said in July, calling the competition's credibility "extraordinarily important to us."
Liguori, who had refused to say what action might be taken against Abdul if the story were confirmed, said the investigation had included interviews with Abdul, Clark and "corroborating witnesses."
"This decision to begin an inquiry was motivated by a profound commitment to preserve the integrity of the 'American Idol' competition," Fox and producers FremantleMedia North America and 19 Television said Friday.
The show will emerge essentially unscathed from the incident, which may actually have helped viewership, suggested Robert Thompson, professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University.
"One reason we watch these shows is the cheese factor. This ups the cheese equity of 'American Idol,' as opposed to the (1950s) quiz shows scandals, which undermined the very value of what those shows were," Thompson said.
A call to Clark seeking comment was not immediately returned Friday.
Attorneys Marcell McRae, a former federal prosecutor, and Ivy Kagan Bierman jointly handled the probe. The 3 1/2-month inquiry included interviews with 43 people and a review of material provided by Abdul and Clark.
The investigators concluded that Clark's claims of a sexual relationship "have not been substantiated by any corroborating evidence or witnesses, including those provided by Mr. Clark, and Ms. Abdul expressly denies that any such relationship ever existed."
Clark's allegations that Abdul provided help to boost his chances of winning also were not substantiated, according to the network and producers.
"Ms. Abdul acknowledges that she had telephone conversations with Mr. Clark while he was a contestant. Their accounts of those conversations, however, differ greatly and no evidence was uncovered to resolve the conflicts in their accounts," according to the statement.
Clark was dumped from "American Idol" in 2003 because he failed to reveal a prior arrest. In July, the Sacramento County district attorney's office decided not to press criminal charges against Corey for a hotel food fight that got out of control.