June 8, 2012 at 7:52 PM ET
Stuttering "America's Got Talent" contestant Tim Poe, who's been accused of exaggerating his military record during his audition for the show, has apologized for misrepresenting himself -- but claims that he did not intentionally deceive anybody.
"I would like to take the time to tell the American people how truly sorry I am that they had to endure the incomplete facts," Poe told the New York Post in an email interview. "I understand how they feel."
Poe's emotional back-story during his audition segment warmed the hearts of the "America's Got Talent" judges and audiences alike, as he explained that he'd suffered brain damage from a grenade blast while serving in Afghanistan that left him with a speech impediment.
However, his story has been called into question on multiple fronts. A spokesman for the National Guard unit that Poe served in released a statement noting, "Sgt. Poe's official military records do not indicate that he was injured by a grenade in combat while serving in Afghanistan in 2009, as he reports. The Minnesota National Guard can also confirm that he was not awarded the Purple Heart Medal for wounds sustained in combat."
The doubts grew after it was revealed that a photo that aired during Poe's audition segment and purported to depict Poe on duty overseas was actually of another soldier altogether.
FremantleMedia, the production company for "America's Got Talent," has issued its own apology for the photo snafu and emphasized that Poe had provided the photo.
"We sincerely apologize to U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Norman Bone for using a photo of him in our story on Tim Poe," a spokesman for the company told TheWrap in a statement Thursday. "It was supplied to us by Tim and used on the show in good faith. It has now been removed and will not be used again."
In his interview with the Post, Poe admits that the injury he claims to have suffered "may not have happened exactly like I said it did," blaming a faulty memory.
"I really do not remember a lot of things since the accident," Poe said. "I remember a blast going off by my head and being in Afghanistan and telling one of the sergeants.
"It is like a dream," Poe added. "I can't remember things exactly how it happened."
Poe provided the Post with his retirement orders, which indicate that he suffers from an "injury or disease received in the line of duty as a direct result of armed conflict or caused by an instrumentality of war and incurred in the line of duty during a period of war."
However, an Army spokesperson told the paper that records do not confirm the location or timing of the incident.
Poe also admitted to misleading the "America's Got Talent" judges on another front by claiming that he had never sung prior to his injury.
"I was in a band. But it was before the accident," Poe confessed. "And at the time of 'AGT,' when the judges asked, before I could even think about answering, my words had already came out."
Despite all the backpedaling, Poe claims some offense that his story has been called into question.
"It hurts me that people would think I left for a ear infection in the time that we were defending our country," Poe told the Post.
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