Some Clay Aiken Donors Feel ‘Duped’ After Announcement of Esquire ‘Docu-series’

Clay Aiken Congressional Run
Matthew Eisman/WireImage

Some Los Angeles donors who attended a Sept. 30 fundraiser for Clay Aiken in Los Angeles feel “duped” after the announcement, just hours after he lost his race for a North Carolina congressional seat, that Esquire Network had been producing a “docu-series” about his campaign.

According to Karen Ocamb of FrontiersLA, donors are asking that footage of the event not be included in the documentary. Donors have complained that a film crew following Aiken around that night asked attendees to sign release forms, but told them that it was for a BBC documentary that would not air in the U.S.

The organizer of the Aiken fundraiser, actor-producer Steven Tyler,  sent a letter to Aiken in which he wrote, “I am sorry for the loss on your bid for Congress, but apparently you had yourself covered with a reality TV show deal the entire time, just in case you didn’t win.  I cannot speak for the NC Voters or contributors, but I can speak for myself and many of your Los Angeles supporters when I say we feel duped, taken advantage of and lied to.”

The Esquire Network announced the unnamed project as a four-hour documentary series from UK documentary production company Lightbox, but they have not called it a reality series. The project is being filmed by Simon Chinn, who won an Oscar for “Searching for Sugar Man,” and Jonathan Chinn, an Emmy winner whose credits include “30 Days” and “American High” through their Lightbox production company. The project is described as “an intimate look at the hope of victory and, ultimately, the disappointment of defeat.” The filmmakers followed Aiken since the announcement of his candidacy in February.

But some donors also have questioned Aiken’s motivations.

In his letter, posted in Ocamb’s story, Tyler wrote that “had the LA donors known you would personally benefit from their donations and appearance at the event — they would not have donated to your campaign.”

According to a source close to the production, Aiken was not paid nor was anyone else who was filmed during the documentary.

Aiken was well received by the crowd, and according to Ocamb, who was there, some of the attendees were impressed enough to write additional checks as they were leaving. The fundraiser was held at the home of Michael Corbett of “Extra.”


Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 51

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. s.w says:

    I watched the first episode of this show and I think it shows the real aiken cussing and popping nerve pills. For someone who at one point said he had never used the f word used it quite a bit on this show. Hes a fake he used his singing career as shown as a good boy lived that lie and now the real person comes out. No one likes a dirty campaign like he run. He should have kept his mouth shut. Even. Going as far to make fun of a mans pants. Hes a has been.

  2. StevenX says:

    Would it really be the first time Clay Aiken has lied to his supporters? Just ask his fan club.

  3. kate says:

    I find it disappointing that Variety would publish such poppycock. I might as well pick up a copy of the Enquirer. Really wish you would fact check and set the story straight.

  4. I must disagree with Denise Waters about Clay Aiken’s 15 minutes. It isn’t done yet,he is a winner and his fan will believe that he is a winner.

  5. Denise Waters says:

    Aren’t Clay Aiken’s 15 minutes up yet? When will America be done with this loser?

  6. I must agree with Pat Jean about Steve Tyler owes Clay Aiken a huge apology for his comment. It is amazing to see how he is able to look at the voter with a clear thought.

  7. Hank says:

    These comments are being invaded by claymates which are as loose with the truth as Clay Aiken.

  8. pat jean says:

    Steve Tyler owes Clay Aiken a HUGE apology for his comments. Most people have never even heard of this guy, so why people believe him is beyond me. Clay has proven himself to be an upstanding, honest and caring individual. Tyler has proven himself to be nothing but a whiner. Did he even try to contact Clay personally? Why write a letter that was obviously meant to be posted on the net?

    What if Clay had won? I’ll bet he’d be harping a different tune and taking plenty of credit and this would not have been an issue at all. Tyler is the loser in all senses of the word.

  9. Cara says:

    Your comment is spot on and Aiken said in a video statement the docu-series is meant to bring transparency to the process. Esquire states it chronicles the “good, the bad and the ugly” and with Aiken, being the private person he is known to be, appears to be stepping way out of his comfort zone . I too am looking forward to the result. I’m sure the series itself will cause controversy! Good! It’s good for the mind to think!
    As far as Steve Tyler.. doesnt get any more transparent than that! The letter is a knee jerk over reaction to a few people who suggested it makes him look bad for having the fundraiser. No balls!

  10. SYO says:

    A campaign that allowed independent, credible documentary filmmakers to record it. One that gave control of the product over to the filmmakers. That sounds more like a campaign that has nothing to hide than one created to extend one man’s (Clay Aiken’s) fame. I for one would be fascinated to see what these British filmmakers make of what they saw during the Clay Aiken campaign.

  11. chelsea says:

    Just looked up Tyler’s work since I have never heard of him and everyone is saying the same thing. Looks like he barely ever works and only has had extremely minor roles. Why would Variety even believe anything this individual says. Especially when so many other people at this same party are coming forward and saying that they understood the waiver and had no problem with it. Maybe all along this was Tyler’s way to get publicity. Both by those that attended that evening and now with whatever notoriety he can get out of it.

  12. Pamela Like says:

    Steve Tyler is completely WRONG about this on many levels. This is NOT a reality series, it’s a BBC documentary made by Oscar & Emmy-winning filmmakers that is being edited into 4 parts for the Esquire Channel. Anyone who spoke with the crew at the fundraiser were told it was for the U.K., but would be shopped to American TV. Think MITT instead of KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS. Standard language was clear in the release, which should have been understood by Hollywood pros. Did Tyler not actually read what he was signing or ask the crew any questions? Then that would be HIS fault. The A-list documentarians, the Chinn Brothers, approached Aiken about the filming, Aiken did not seek this out on his own. Variety would be more fair to interview the Chinns about the incident, as Aiken had nor has any control over the production, final edit, nor any conversation Tyler had or didn’t have with the crew. Since no one seems to even know who the heck Steve Tyler is, it would seem his leaking this story to Variety has a lot more to do with his own self-absorption & desire for publicity.

    Clay Aiken has been working for his fellow man since his teens, often to the detriment of his entertainment career. Living in NC his entire life (except for 1 yr immediately after IDOL) kept him from the red carpets, parties, shmoozing, networking & making important Hollywood friends that is necessary to sustain a mainstream career there. He chose not to do that because it’s never where his heart has been. He LOVES North Carolina & especially the Triangle. He also LOVES humanitarian work, especially with children & the disadvantaged. Running to serve his district is EXACTLY what one who really knows Clay would expect. His fans have been calling him “Senator Aiken” since 2003 when he left in the middle of the record-breaking AMERICAN IDOL tour that summer to go to D.C. & lobby Congress for the rights of the disabled.

    The man Steve Tyler thought he was supporting IS the man Clay Aiken truly is. If Steve thinks any differently now, he is wildly misinformed &/or leaping to erroneous conclusions. How sad that a young man who only wants to use his voice to stand up for those without one, is being villified for no other reason than that a quality documentary crew wanted to film his journey for posterity, something for which he did not solicit, nor had any control over the timing of the announcement, nor of the final film. As everyone who’s known Clay for years always says, what you see is what you get with him. He is honest to a fault, ethical in his dealings, & trusting that others will treat him as he treats them. He’s learned a lot about the darkside of the entertainment industry & now of politics. I truly hope this crap does not discourage him from running another campaign as he’s EXACTLY the type of person we need more of in Washington. I know for a fact that it will not deter him from public service in whatever arena he finds that needs a tenacious voice.

  13. I wanted to thank you for the information about Clay Aiken docu. series.

  14. I can’t wait to see the Clay Aiken documentary when it finally become available in the theater or better when it become available on DVD. Clay Aiken is one of the most hard working man who speak his mind. Good luck to the future.

  15. I still believe that Clay Aiken will be still be a winner. Aiken just prove how the high cost of election that will hurting our country. Steve Tyler just show his true color.

  16. Cara says:

    Brava!! It killed him to ask people in the district for $$ To paraphrase Aiken said “I’m asking people who don’t have $2.00 for $2500!” Steve Tyler owes Aiken an apology. Had he won I suppose they’d be taking the credit. Tyler, all around comes out looking shallow and pathetic

    • Alice Kakuda says:

      I am incensed by Steve Tyler’s response and comments! I was present at this event, but was never approached to sign a release form. I’ve known Clay for the past 11 years and know of his integrity and honesty. How dare he speak for “the many” present that we wouldn’t have made additional contributions! Tyler’s actions are similar to the bullies and haters that have called Clay despicable names. Tyler should have done fact checking prior to posting!

  17. Cara says:

    That is a fair comment. Thank you. Live and learn I suppose. The heart and passion was in the right place for all the right reasons.

  18. I live in the district he campaigned in. I happen to be a Republican, and I did not vote for him, but I do respect the time, effort and work Clay put into his campaign here. And he campaigned extremely hard and did about as well as anyone else would have, considering the district he was campaigning in-which is extremely conservative. He put in the work and deserves respect for that.

    I am not particularly thrilled with the fact he was getting money from LA elites to campaign in MY district, so for Tyler and the other offended donors…..let’s just call it even. And next time you are tempted to use Hollywood money to try to affect MY NC representation… me a favor and find a nice charity instead.

    • Truthiness says:

      Are you aware that Renee Ellmers campaign funds came mainly from outside PACs? 75% of her money came from the GOP elite around the country. By contrast, 90% of Clay’s funds came from small individual contributors. He didn’t have very many big money donors at all. And by big money, in Clay’s case, we’re talking $2600 per person, as per campaign finance regulations. The millionaires who contribute to PACs, on the other hand, are allowed by law to give as much as they want, just as long as they give to the PAC & not directly to the candidate. Clay received no money, to my knowledge, from PACs & none from the national Democratic committee, either. Renee received mucho dinero from PACs & the national GOP committee, however. Sorry, to burst your bubble, but the rubberstamp for John Boehner that you voted for was NOT financially supported by the people of your district.

  19. guest says:

    What a surprise. A dishonest homosexual democrat, who’d a thunk it?

    • Benjy says:

      Aiken had no control (or pay from) the documentarians. The film was originally going to be shown only in the U.K. until Esquire bought it. So yeah, you’re a moron. And he’s hardly the first candidate to be followed by a documentary crew.

    • Connie, that’s hilarious considering all of the millions of dollars of outside money from special interest groups spent in your district to affect the outcome for your district and entire state.

  20. Cara says:

    It’s chump change compared to the corporations who funded 75% of Ellmers campaign 75% plus!! Corporations are not individuals. It’s not the point. Steve Tyler should apologize! Period. And I won’t stop until he does

  21. Cara says:

    What a mean, catty and bitchy thing to say and insinuate. If I could I would send all you donors your money back! Way to support a man when he’s down. Clay Aiken worked 24/7 for 9 months to get the people in his district the voice they desperately need in DC…. and all you care about is your money?? You should be ashamed of yourself Steve Tyler of LA

  22. Jo-Anne Lopez says:

    I attended many fundraisers and donated as much as I could, I made phone calls and canvassed from door to door, I attended several town hall meetings and listened to Clay answer questions with absolute sincerity (he even said “I don’t know” when he didn’t–oh horrors). I would bet my last dollar that Clay did not make a dime off this documentary; it was yet another way for Clay to use his voice by letting others share and learn from his experiences. Oh, and I actually read the release form before I signed it.

    • Truthiness says:

      You wouldn’t have to bet anything. Campaign finance law ensured that Aiken received not one penny from this documentary. He was approached by the Chinn Brothers as they found his campaign a truly unique one in America & worthy of a film. They’ve won Oscars & Emmies, btw.

  23. Cara says:

    I second that! WTF kind of bitchy ass thing for Steven Tyler to say and worse for Variety to report. LA people truly are beyond shallow.

  24. I'm Shocked theres gambling going on here says:

    You were a dupe to even attend this loser event, much less organize it. Once again the Hollywood parasites prove that they think they are the smartest ones ever only to eventually realize they are just trained monkeys. They need to stick to raping children.

  25. Unaffiliated Voter says:

    seems like lieberal democrackkks would be thrilled that a tv show was being made of the
    Aiken defeat…

  26. And if the documentary doesn’t gain traction, he’s selling the making of the documentary filmed by his siblings filming the crew. And if that doesn’t produce anything he’s selling his photography book of his campaign and journeys across the country. If that fails to garner attention he’s selling his life rights to HBO for the 2 hr special “American Idol to American Idiot”. Disgusting behavior.

    • Truthiness says:

      Actually, most of Clay’s time is spent running a foundation for disabled children & other charitable work. He’s always been more of a humanitarian than a pop star. Which I’m betting is far more than you’re ever done for the world.

  27. I believe that the Clay Aiken donors feel they was being used and Aiken was working on his Hollywood career instead of caring for his voter.

    • Benjy says:

      Then you know NOTHING about the man Clay is! He’s about as “Hollywood” as anyone in Mayberry, LOVES his homestate & has lived there all his life, often to the detriment of his entertainment career, & has been working for the downtrodden since his teens. Research before commenting again, please. I was at that fundraiser, signed the release (read it thoroughly first), & don’t feel duped at all, nor does anyone else who was there whom I’m familiar with. This Tyler guy is making it all about him & that’s repugnant. The documentarians are A-list Academy-Award winners & they DON’T pay their subjects.

  28. Hillary says:

    Call me naive but didn’t they do a documentary on the Mitt Romney campaign and a few others over the years? I don’t get the big deal. The people at the California fund raiser were show biz people and signed a freaking waiver. They knew exactly what this meant. Why the bitching and whining about something they knew was coming?

    • Because it’s not just a “waiver” it was a blatant lie, knowing the fundraisers aren’t interested in being on American TV. The Romney documentary was an intimate, long-term project done very well. This is worse than a bait and switch, it’s a bait and dunk their head under water.

      • Benjy says:

        FYI, the Chinn Brothers are A-list documentarians. They don’t choose subjects lightly. Last year they won an Oscar. So your point was?

      • They were a BBC crew and they said they were shopping it to American TV channels. I sm
        ell sour grapes that the director in LA didn’t think of it first.

      • Miki says:

        No its exactly the same thing. Why didn’t they attack Mitt Romney for making a reality show documentary about his failed presidential campaign? What about Clinton or Obama? They were all followed by documentary film makers and nobody gave them any crap over it. Its not at all unusual for a campaign to be filmed. Why treat this guy so badly?

  29. Duped by a politician. I’m shocked I tell ya, just shocked.

    • Benjy says:

      They weren’t duped. I was there & we were told it was for the BBC but was being shopping to American TV. Steve Tyler is a liar & a crybaby.

  30. Michael-McCloud Thompson says:

    I was at this fundraiser and I want it known that I will not be counted among any donors who say they feel “duped.” I’ve been a social and political activist for a long time and remain impressed with Clay Aiken’s depth and breadth of knowledge of the issues affecting not just his home state, but the country as a whole. I’m a member of the Directors Guild. I chatted with the camera crew working that evening and was clearly told that this documentary was being done by British film makers and was being shopped to the American market. Anyone who read the photo release would have seen the standard boilerplate language indicating “unrestricted, unconditional, in perpetuity” release – and this event was packed with people who work in the industry who should have recognized that language. The project, by Academy Award winning Simon Chinn and Emmy winning Jonathan Chinn, is not a “reality series,” but a documentary along the lines of Marshall Curry’s “Street Fight,” which told the story of Cory Booker’s failed first attempt to become mayor of Newark. As a candidate for public office, neither Booker nor Aiken benefited from the documentaries that featured their campaigns, because doing so would be a clear violation of Federal Election Commission rules. Aiken seemed believable, dedicated and committed because that is exactly what he is. Had Mr, Tyler requested clarification from Lightbox, the Chinns or Aiken, he would have discovered that this documentary is exactly what was described as being filmed all along. Aiken has been an advocate and activist since he was a teenager and used his high profile career to expand his advocacy. What a damned shame to question his integrity!

    • Pat Ferguson says:

      I am a Clay Aiken donor, Charles Haskell – and I don’t feel that way. Quit speaking for any of us.
      THANK YOU, Michael-McCloud Thompson for putting the right shoe on the foot – and for supporting Clay. I am in his district in NC – and I attended more than one fundraiser, town hall and meet & greet for him. People found him honest, genuine, intelligent, well-informed and willing to listen – quite the opposite of the boombozzle Ellmers who now represents us. Clay will not go into hiding over this loss – in fact, we voters might just want him in our state house. I personally appreciate your comments – the documentary will show the district Clay tried so hard to defend.

    • Isn’t it a tad wrong to campaign on the other side of the country to get your money? He feels he can’t raise the money in his home state so he comes out west where he … has more … in common. If you can’t raise the funds in your own state then obviously you don’t have your state’s support. We don’t need handpicked campaigns across the country to achieve Hollywood’s favor and try to crush the opposition with ads and overall larger efforts to further the liberal agenda. The whole thing seems wrong to me. He’s not running for President, so why is he campaigning outside of his constituents?!?!?!?!?!?!

      • chelsea says:

        You expect the people of #nc02 to have the kind of money it takes to run a Congressional campaign??? His opponent did fundraisers in Colorado and had her hand deeply in the pockets of the Koch brothers/super pacs. Aiken had many fundraisers in NC as well but it takes a lot of $$$$. This program is reportedly four hours long which is ridiculous to call it a reality series. Oh and how quickly we forget that other politicians have had similar series so why this treatment of Aiken? I suppose this Steven Tyler is trying to get his name known any way he can but he just comes off sounding ridiculous for not understanding the waiver that he signed..

      • Miki says:

        I don’t hear any complaints about big oil pumping millions into campaigns to elect republican puppets. I also don’t hear any criticism of the Hollywood big wigs giving money to asupport a candidate not running in Hollywood. Why only attack the subject when everyone else involved is let off scot free? He did nothing wrong. Its typical and usual to have a campaign documented. Get over it and Steve Tyler needs to shut up.

  31. MarinDem says:

    Sounds like some Hollywood liberals want to keep their support for Aiken secret while they complain about unidentified conservative PAC money for candidates they don’t support. Why would an Aiken donor at a Hollywood fundraiser be ashamed to be seen at an event for Aiken anyway?

    I heard him give a so-called serious political issues interview at the beginning of his campaign AND anyone who ever took him as a serious candidate was duped from the outset If he had not been on American Idol he would never had any opportunity to seek public office. All AI gave him was name recognition that he failed to parlay into a political career. If they were expecting someone of the caliber of President Reagan then they deserved to lose their money. LOL

    Surely, they aren’t expecting their money back are they? And if they feel that Aiken lied to them about the documentary – well he was playing the role of a politician. LOL Lesson Learned?

    • SKDogLover says:

      So MarinDem – what exactly are the qualifications to run for Congress? I don’t think there are any requirements written anywhere, something you obviously never learned in a basic civics class in high school. I guess Renee Ellmers, who one might consider a snowbird who fled to warmer weather from Michigan and only has spent a handful of years in NC, had an endless list of your so-called qualifications. She did NOT. She was nurse who worked in her successful surgeon husband office. Rather than give example after example, all I can say is that this whole scenario instigated by Mr. Tyler for whatever reason, is blatantly wrong on a number of levels. I also am a bit pissed off that the author of this article did not do much homework before writing this piece (can you say Journalism 101?) but rather accepted Tyler’s whining as fact-based.

      I for one look forward to seeing this docuseries (yes that is what Esquire TV calls it, and it’s a good description) – it clearly is not a reality show of Aiken’s doing. Much in the same way – as I see it and someone recently made the analogy – Glen Campbell (God bless him1) is not the driving force in the forthcoming documentary about his journey with Alzheimers disease.

      I trust that these knowledgeable filmmakers are simply doing their jobs to produce informative, educational film that gives outsiders an insider’s look at the ‘day in the life of’ ….

      PS – Don’t dare to suggest I am making a direct analogy between Glen Campbell’s dire health situation and Clay Aiken’s run for Congress. If you do, you are missing the point. I am simply attempting to explain to those who are stuck in a rut about reality TV. For gawd sake, wasn’t all tv reality TV in the days when every show was LIVE and no prerecorded?

    • Benjy says:

      Aiken has 10 times the brains of his opponent, Renee “we need to talk down to a woman’s level” Ellmers Fudd. ALL of his interviews & debates were informed, sincere & passionate. He earned the endorsement of every major newspaper in the district & the respect of even lifelong Republicans there. He ran a model campaign & did everything right, by all standards. He worked his butt off trying to meet every constituent possible & listen to their concerns, which Ellmers has NEVER done in 4 yrs. But he lost because he’s an openly gay moderate in an extremely conservative, gerrymandered district. If he’d been on a level playing field, it’s clear he would have won. He’s truly a man of the people & this documentary will prove that. Since he’s been serving the public from well into his teens, I have no doubt we will not hear the last of Clay in the political arena.

More Biz News from Variety