AT&T provided free phones, texting to Kris Allen fans, fueling typical Idol loser fans’ conspiracy theories

Adam Lambert fans actually have some tangible evidence to hang their conspiracy theories on: AT&T admitted that it provided phones and free “power texting” to Kris Allen fan parties in Arkansas for the finale. But whether or not those actually affected the vote and led to Kris’ victory isn’t clear–and, let’s be honest, will never be. And while we’re being honest: pretty much every season the loser claims a conspiracy that caused their person lose.

An AT&T spokesperson told the New York Times, “In Arkansas, we were invited to attend the local watch parties organized by the community. A few local employees brought a small number of demo phones with them and provided texting tutorials to those who were interested.” Besides providing free texting to non-AT&T users, those employees taught Kris’ fans “how to send 10 or more text messages at the press of a single button, known as power texts. Power texts have an exponentially greater effect on voting than do single text messages or calls to the show’s toll-free phone lines,” The New York Times reports.

The paper notes these “efforts appear to run afoul of ‘American Idol’ voting rules in two ways”: “the show regularly states that text voting is open only to AT&T subscribers and is subject to normal rates,” and “the show broadcasts an on-screen statement at the end of each episode warning that blocks of votes cast using ‘technical enhancements’ that unfairly influence the outcome of voting can be thrown out.”

But as MJ’s Big Blog notes, “AT&T rep-attended Idol parties have been going on for years,” and this is “business as usual for Idol sponsors, AT&T, who attend these Idol viewing parties hoping to sell more phone services.” She also notes that “[s]ome Adam fans have been keeping themselves busy harassing contacting media outlets, making them aware of all their crazed conspiracy theories.”

Besides not actually trying to quantify this–i.e., how many votes may these phones have given Kris? 50,000? 500,000? 50 million?–the Times doesn’t appear to have contacted anyone to find out if AT&T showed up at Adam Lambert parties. Notice my use of the word “appear”: I’m using that word because I’m guessing, which coincidentally is exactly what the New York Times’ Edward Wyatt does: “There appear to have been no similar efforts to provide free texting services to supporters of Adam Lambert,” he reports.

Earlier, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that, during the finale, “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 stadium party was organized by the Kris Allen Kick Awesome Task Force, which MTV reported drew thousands to its events earlier in the season.

At the very least, if Kris fans organized parties and invited AT&T, that means that Kris Allen fans were more organized and showed more support. And there’s nothing inherently fair about a competition that allows everyone to vote an unlimited number of times, because that gives the advantage to crazier fans, whoever they might support.

AT&T May Have Swayed ‘Idol’ Results [New York Times]
The New York Times Throws Fuel on the Fire of Crazy Idol Fan Conspiracy Theories [MJ's Big Blog]
Throngs of Kris Allen fans cheer, vote for Idol finalist [Arkansas Democrat-Gazette]
Kris Allen’s Hometown Fans Form Massive ‘American Idol’ Task Force [MTV News]

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.