Inside Move: ‘Idol’ hands for Fox

Is net behind trigger of Smoking Gun?

Another scandal hit “American Idol” March 31 with the surfacing of assault charges against finalist Corey Clark for beating his 14-year-old sister.

Not surprisingly, the April 1 episode in which Clark got the boot was the highest-rated “Idol” in four weeks.

And, again, it was web site TheSmokingGun.com that broke the story.

The pattern of Smoking Gun’s dirt-digging on Fox reality TV shows and resulting ratings bumps has, by Variety‘s count, been repeated six times so far in 2003, leading some conspiracy theorists to speculate that Fox and SmokingGun.com may not be the adversaries they appear.

Earlier SmokingGun news breaks include:

  • March 27: “American Idol” finalist Lashundra Cobbins‘ 1999 felony theft bust.

  • March 3: Finalist Jaered Andrews‘ arrest for a bar fight that killed one man.

  • Feb. 11: Contestant Frenchie Davis‘ Web porn career.

  • Jan. 29: “Joe Millionaire” finalist Sarah Kozer‘s foot fetish and bondage videos.

  • Jan. 6: “Joe Millionaire” star Evan Marriott‘s previous gig modeling underwear.

Notice a trend?

Bill Bastone, SmokingGun founder and veteran New York City crime reporter, is the first to admit the shows get promotional bumps from the scandals, but he vehemently denies Fox is leaking info to his site.

“It’s ridiculous,” Bastone says. “The thing is, I know where we got it from and it wasn’t Fox. It wasn’t anyone close to Fox.”

He adds, “The only contact with the network is minutes before we post and we say, ‘Hey, did you know this?’ ”

Bastone won’t reveal sources, but says the site has become a “clearinghouse for former roommates” looking to dish on the temporarily famous.

Still, he admits, “If someone from Fox called us up and wanted to drop a dime, I’d listen.”

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