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‘Idol’s’ Cowell refutes racist voting charge

He also predicts London and DeGarmo will be the final two ‘American Idol’ contestants.
/ Source: Reuters

“American Idol” judge Simon Cowell Wednesday predicted that La Toya London and Diana DeGarmo would advance to the final round of the latest TV search for an instant pop star, dismissing suggestions that voters were racist or that the results were rigged.

Cowell, the British judge whose withering criticism is key to the Fox TV show’s runaway success, said the surprise elimination last week of contestant Jennifer Hudson, who is black, had given the competition a much needed shake-up.

Despite being widely considered the strongest wannabe popstar, Hudson and fellow African-Americans London and Fantasia Barrino drew the three smallest tallies among the 20 million votes cast by viewers over the telephone last week.

The result led British singer Elton John to comment on Tuesday that the American viewing public was “incredibly racist.”

Cowell responded with “a definite no” to the racist charge and added that votes are audited by an independent company.

“There are a lot of passive viewers who complain about the results but don’t pick up the phone or text a message.

“We needed a shake-up and I think it will change ... my gut feeling is we are going to attract 5 to 6 million new voters and the better singers now have a chance,” Cowell told reporters at the launch of an “American Idol” cellphone based on the show.

“I am going to predict La Toya and Diana to be the two finalists ... It’s just who I’m guessing America will pick. If it was talent it would be La Toya and Fantasia, but I just don’t think it will be those two,” he said.

The winner for the third edition of “American Idol,” which ranks as the most watched prime-time show this season, will be crowned on the May 26 telecast that concludes the show’s latest run.

The “American Idol” camera cellphone offers fans exclusive text and photo messages from contestants, “Simon ring tones” that promise to “make listeners cringe” and ticket offers and promotions. The special edition Nokia phone is a joint venture with Musicland Group Inc. and “Idol” producers Fremantle Media.