The morning after Sanjaya Malakar turned in another memorable, winning performance on American Idol and inspired an audience member's sign that read "Sanjaya is my Papaya," one of the show's executive producers says Tabloid Baby was correct in reporting that Howard Stern listeners have nothing to do with his success in the competition.
Ken Warwick says that even if all of Howard's listeners voted-- or if any other radio campaign was started-- they wouldn't make up the difference that Sanjaya has over the contestants below him-- or above him-- in the weekly phone-in votes.
"There is very little hype anybody can do to affect the vast numbers of votes we get," he says.
Warwick also tells the New York Daily News that Idol's technical staff has the ability to trace each of the 40 million calls the show receives each week--and to identify or stop electronic voting-- though they've not spotted a problem so far.
Howard has reportedly bragged that he and a website that urge people to vote for the worst contestants have kept Sanjaya in the running-- to ruin Idol's credibility. We reported that the claim was probably unfounded, due to the fact that Stern has virtually disappeared from the pop culture radar screen since he left radio and millions of listeners for big money but a small audience on a pay-satellite show.
Howard has also ignored Sanjaya's obvious audience appeal, which crosses generations and cultures, his attention-getting showmanship-- and his vocal talent, which was praised last night by no less than Tony Bennett, the music great who Frank Sinatra called "the best singer in the business."