A golden ticket doesn’t mean an easy journey! Since American Idol premiered in June 2002, the show, its judges and contestants have become the subject of numerous scandals and controversies.
Prior to the days of voting by app for your favorite contestant, fans reported an unfair voting system during season 1 of American Idol when about 100 people used auto-dialing technology to reportedly place almost 10,000 votes every night for their favorite contestant.
Because not everyone had access to the technology, some said the system gave certain Idol hopefuls (whose fans were lucky enough to be on top of their tech) an unfair advantage. Nevertheless, production company Fremantle Media told USA Today in August 2002 that the number of votes coming from the software were “statistically insignificant.”
The next season, the drama became more personal when Ruben Studdard won the competition, beating Clay Aiken by 140,000 votes out of a total 24 million. While fans complained that the crown belonged to the “Invisible” singer, both season 2 stars went on to have successful careers.
In 2021, American Idol was hit with a number of controversies during season 19 when two contestants dropped out of the show. The first was Wyatt Pike, who made it to the top 12 before suddenly disappearing.
“Before we get to the results, I have to tell you that finalist Wyatt Pike will not be competing in the competition,” Ryan Seacrest said at the beginning of an April 2021 episode. “He had to drop out, but we wish him the very best.”
At the time, the contestant’s rep told Us Weekly, “Wyatt could not continue due to personal reasons.”
Later that month, a TikTok rumor went around alleging that the Utah native had gotten into a fight with judge Luke Bryan. Fans speculated that the country star — who had missed an episode of the show after contracting coronavirus — wasn’t sick after all.
“Trust me, he has covid,” she wrote at the time, according to a screenshot. “I kinda wish there was a fight. I’m sick of taking care of kids alone and sanitizing. I’m peeing Lysol!!!”
Scroll down to see more of the biggest American Idol controversies through the years: