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When 'American Idol' Met Billboard in Season 2: How 'Hot 100 No. 1s' Night Was Born



When 'American Idol' Met Billboard in Season 2: How 'Hot 100 No. 1s' Night Was Born

4/4/2016 by Fred Bronson


Clay Aiken, Kimberley Locke and Ruben Studdard on American Idol in 2003.


Thirteen years ago today, six Idols -- including eventual top two Clay Aiken & Ruben Studdard -- visited Billboard.

Thirteen years ago today, Billboard and American Idol were brought together for the first time.

It was the third Saturday in March 2003 when the Television Academy hosted an afternoon event featuring the producers and cast of Fox's American Idol, now in its second season. The Academy's theater held 500 people and there were 1,800 RSVPs. So the night before, the Academy sent out an email blast explaining to the members that most of them would be watching the event on a giant screen outside the theater.

I was one of those members who RSVPd and it didn't sit well with me -- I didn't want to be outside. I wanted to be in the theater, able to experience the event in person. I made a late-night call to the Academy's PR staff to see if I could cover the event for Billboard. I was assigned a spot on the red carpet, and when I was introduced to executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, within 30 seconds of meeting him, I said, "Nigel, I have an idea." Lythgoe asked what it was, and that's when I suggested a themed episode of Idolwhere the editors of Billboard would choose songs for the contestants. Lythgoe smiled and said, "Absolutely not. We learned a lesson in the U.K. If you choose the songs for the finalists, when they go home, it's your fault. So they must choose their own songs."

That was the end of the discussion as the event was about to begin. I took my seat inside the theater and for the next two hours tried to come up with another Idea that Lythgoe would like. After the event, attendees were standing outside the theater schmoozing, and I spotted Lythgoe and approached. "Nigel, I have another idea." Lythgoe laughed but wanted to know more. Since I was the author of The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, I suggested the Idols sing No. 1s from the Billboard Hot 100. Lythgoe shouted out to Mike Darnell, president of alternative programming for Fox, "Hey, Mike, how about a show with Billboard No. 1 hits?" Darnell gave a thumbs-up.

"I promise you we'll do it," Lythgoe told me. "But we're already booked up this season. We'll do it next year." Two weeks later, I received a phone call from the show's music supervisor, Susan Slamer. "You might want to come to Idol next week. We're doing Billboard No. 1 hits." One of the planned themes had dropped out and the producers remembered the idea from the Academy event.

Hearing the news, I made another suggestion: If the show would bring the Idols to theBillboard office, I would give them a lesson in how the charts are compiled -- the charts where some of the season 2 cast were likely to have their own No. 1 songs, just like season 1's Kelly Clarkson. The voice on the other end of the line said, "That's a great idea."

So on April 4, 2003 -- 13 years ago today -- six finalists from season 2 arrived at theBillboard office with a production crew from Idol and were ushered into a conference room for a lesson in "Billboard 101" with then-director of charts Geoff Mayfield and me.


Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken, Kimberley Locke, Josh Gracin, Carmen Rasmusen and Rickey Smith filed in. Two Idols were missing: Trenyce and Kimberly Caldwell. Both were ill and in quarantine, so as not to infect the other six singers in the top eight. We explained how the charts are compiled and took questions from the contestants.

Aiken wanted to know which songwriter had the most No. 1s (Paul McCartney with 32, a record that stands to this day). Locke asked how many times Aretha Franklin had been No. 1 (twice, first with "Respect" and again with "I Knew You Were Waiting for Me," her duet with George Michael). Smith wondered how many famous artists never reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 (many, including Bruce Springsteen, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Bob Dylan and James Brown).

Aiken had another question: Which artist had the most songs in the top 10 at the same time? I told him it was The Beatles, who did it 39 years ago on this very day (April 4, 1964) when they locked up the entire top five.

Then I posed a question to the Idols: While the show had produced one Hot 100 No. 1 at this point (Clarkson's "A Moment Like This"), which TV series was responsible for the most chart-toppers? Smith got the answer right: The Monkees (with three).

With cameras still rolling, the session ended with a surprise for the six guests: super-size gift bags containing Billboard clothing, issues of the magazine and autographed copies of my books, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits and Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits. At this point in season 2, the Idols were used to receiving gifts everywhere they went, but Locke, flipping through the pages of the books, exclaimed, "Wow, something we can really use!"

Before they left the building, the Idols met the rest of the Billboard staff, including then-West Coast bureau chief Melinda Newman, who told Aiken they both hailed from the same hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina.

The "field trip" to Billboard was seen on the following week's live broadcast, with Melinda and me in the audience. A story ran in Billboard detailing the office visit. It was the beginning of a long association between Billboard and American Idol, with many more shows themed to the charts and years of coverage from the beginning of the iconic series right through to the end.

P.S. Aiken did go on to top the Billboard Hot 100 with his first RCA single, "This Is the Night." Studdard, Locke and Gracin all had multiple No. 1s on other Billboard charts.



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Clay Aiken hits out at NC bathroom law, chides Trump



Clay Aiken hits out at NC bathroom law, chides Trump

Erin Barry | @erincstefanski

10 Hours Ago


While his voice is most well-known for singing, these days North Carolina native Clay Aiken is using it for a different, more political, purpose.

It's why the singer ran for North Carolina's second congressional district as a Democrat in 2014. After falling short in that race, the "American Idol" runner-up turned to advocacy for the LGBT community, and serves as a UNICEF ambassador.

After the recent Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act passed in his home state, Aiken added his voice to the rising chorus of criticism against North Carolina's bill, which requires transgender individuals to use bathrooms that match their "biological sex." Aiken told CNBC's "On the Money" in an interview he is disappointed and frustrated by the government's action, calling the law "discriminatory."

He added that it was " ironic, because it's an anti-discrimination bill."

Aiken, who was a contestant on "Celebrity Apprentice" in 2012, also spoke out about Donald Trump. Aiken told CNBC the GOP frontrunner of today is not the person he knew just a few years ago.

"I'm not even convinced that Donald Trump knows the person who's running today," says Aiken.

As for the Trump phenomenon, Aiken says the GOP establishment needs to pay attention because Donald Trump has tapped into an angry part of the electorate, but has misgivings if he is the right spokesperson for those people.

"I'm not completely convinced that he necessarily believes everything that he's saying," he added.

States across the country have tried to pass religious liberty laws, which opponents say are an attack on the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

In each case, there has been backlash from the business community, but none bigger than the more than 130 business leaders asking to repeal North Carolina's law. CEOs from companies such as Apple,Facebook, Google and others signed a letter stating: "Discrimination is wrong, and we believe it has no place in North Carolina or anywhere in our country."

Paypal made an immediate economic impact when it announced plans to withdraw a new $3.6 million global operations center in Charlotte, which would employ 400 people.

And it's not just the corporate world putting up a protest. Film director Rob Reiner said he will halt film production in the state, and NBA star Charles Barkley is calling on the league to relocate it's 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte. Separately, Bruce Springsteen even canceled hisconcert on Sunday to show his support for the LGBT community.

Aiken says companies standing up to North Carolina is altruistic as well as a marketing strategy, and it's OK to be both.

"People can disagree about marriage equality and still believe it's not necessary to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," says Aiken. "These companies know that. They don't want to be offending their consumers, but they don't also want to be asking people to work for them in a state where they are not welcome."

But unlike the reversal seen in Indiana and Georgia, Aiken believes the economic backlash in North Carolina will not be enough to sway his state's decision.

"Unfortunately the governor has signed it into law, and at this point, the governor doesn't really have any say in it," says Aiken. "I think he's probably the only politician in the state who really is in the position to really be swayed by that type of pressure."

As for "American Idol," which ended last week after 15 seasons, Aiken says he was encouraged by the legacy the show was leaving behind. In its heyday, the show was a ratings blockbuster that spawned the careers of several new artists—some of whom didn't even win the contest.

Performers like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson and Fantasia Barrino owe their careers to the reality singing contest.

"I think if anything that Idol has done over the years, it's really allowed the people at home to be involved in helping to make people's dreams come true, helping to give people opportunity," says Aiken. "I think that's something that people in politics need to take note of."

On the Money airs on CNBC Saturdays at 5:30 am ET, or check listings for air times in local markets. 



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What the 'American Idol' finale looked like from the inside



What the 'American Idol' finale looked like from the inside

by Brian Stelter   @brianstelterApril 8, 2016: 2:06 PM ET


About 13.3 million people tuned in for the finale of "American Idol," a retirement party that showcased the singers who owe their success to the Fox reality show.

While the night didn't go exactly according to plan — members of the studio audience noticed a snafu at the very end — the broadcast was a fitting send-off for a show that, as President Obama said in a pre-taped tribute, "transformed television."

Well-connected fans mingled with Hollywood agents and former contestants at the Dolby Theatre, and everyone — right on up to Fox executive chairman Rupert Murdoch — knew the night was historic.

Voices in the audience could be heard remarking on the moment:

"I can't believe this is the end!"

"I thought this would never happen."

The audience hype man, in charge of keeping the crowd energized during commercial breaks, had no trouble doing his job. He paused several times to acknowledge the hundreds of producers, engineers and technicians behind the scenes.


Trent Harmon wins the "American Idol" finale.

"A round of applause to everyone involved in the making of American Idol for the past 15 years," he said at one point. "It's been an amazing run."

Backstage, the night had the feel of a high school reunion, season two runner-up Clay Aiken said.

"Did many cry? No. But for most of us it is like seeing our high school closed," Aiken told CNNMoney. "It was an important part of making us who we are, but many of us haven't gone back to it in years. But it is a part of us."


Aiken, like dozens of other past contestants, sang on stage during the finale broadcast.

Season four winner Carrie Underwood, generally thought to be the biggest "Idol" star in attendance, performed the final song before Ryan Seacrest announced the results of this season's competition.

When an audience member bellowed "We love you Carrie" from the balcony, she turned back and waved.

But she had to exit quickly, as the stage was a frenzy of activity during every commercial break, with up to 20 staffers sweeping and mopping and setting up performance spaces.

A few steps away at the judges table, there were hugs and selfies.

During the final commercial break, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe reached for a mic and told the studio audience what would happen next.

After the winner — Trent Harmon, it turned out — "sings their coronation song, we are all going to sing 'A Moment Like This,'" he said.

He asked the theatre crowd of 3,500 people to stand up, hold hands and sing along.


Ryan Seacrest, runner-up La'Porsha Renae and finale winner Trent Harmon

"Share with us this incredible moment, of where we started right here, and where we end it, right here," he said.

Season one winner Kelly Clarkson originally performed "A Moment Like This" on the very same stage in the summer of 2002.

It was a fitting way to bring the show full circle. But it didn't quite work.

"Fifteen back. Here we go," a voice said over the speaker system.

Seacrest asked lighting director Kieran Healy to "dim the lights" one final time, and then presented Harmon as the winner.

The confetti cannons were almost overpowering. If there was any singing of "A Moment Like This," it was barely heard over the cheering and dancing on stage.

The final words came from Seacrest, who thanked the viewers at home. "One more time" — he swallowed and said "this is so tough," then paused — "We say to you, from Hollywood, good night, America."

There was another long pause, and then Seacrest said something that wasn't audible to the studio audience, but was heard at home: "For now."

As in, "goodnight, for now. We'll be back."

When the ratings came in on Friday morning, Fox said it was "Idol's most watched finale in three years and its most watched telecast in over two years."

The consensus among the Hollywood types at the after-party was that, yes, "Idol" will be back, someday, but in a different form.

Aiken said he thought "the finale that Nigel created was a perfect tribute to the power 'Idol' has had, not only in creating huge powerhouses like Kelly and Carrie, but in giving the kid next door a chance to have their dreams come true and giving Americans at home a chance to be a part of that. No show will ever do that as well."

Editor's note: Nielsen has adjusted the audience size to 13.3 million.



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Donald Trump Is Hardly the First: Why the Leap From Reality TV to Politics Has Never Been Less of a Stretch



Donald Trump Is Hardly the First: Why the Leap From Reality TV to Politics Has Never Been Less of a Stretch

by Judy Kurtz Tue, Apr 12, 2016 5:30 AM


The 2016 race for the White House has been compared to a reality show — a rollercoaster ride packed with ups and downs, unexpected twists and maybe even a few screams—but could reality television actually be the new gateway to Washington?

From Real World: Boston alum Sean Duffy, who's currently serving his third term as a Republican congressman from Wisconsin, to American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken's failed House bid, reality stars have a long history of making the leap from TV to politics. And Donald Trump's meteoric rise from Celebrity Apprentice host to GOP presidential front-runner could inspire a whole new crop of personalities to take the plunge.

Ted Johnson, who hosts PopPolitics on SiriusXM's POTUS Politics channel and covers that scene for Variety, says there's a good reason that reality show veterans might be naturals when it comes to stump speeches and shaking hands on the campaign trail.

PHOTOS: Celebs Name Their 2016 Presidential Race Picks

Reality television can be a pretty nasty business," says Johnson. "Even something like American Idol, you're subjected to all of the opinions on social media. And so I think you probably are more likely to come into politics with a thicker skin."

Coincidentally, President Barack Obama used last week's American Idol finale to both congratulate the show on its long run and remind viewers just how important it is to vote—for their leaders and their favorite singers.

A reminder to leave no constituent unturned!

Meanwhile, there are other incentives to running for office following a reality TV career.

"An absolute pro is that you come in with the name recognition at the beginning of a campaign that is really important in fundraising," Johnson says. "You probably are a little more attuned to the tougher side of politics than someone else might be."

"They do have a fan base," adds Patricia Phalen, assistant director of George Washington University's School of Media & Public Affairs. "So they have some of that support there already."

Phalen surmises that many small-screen regulars are drawn to politics because they're yearning for something more than TV notoriety. "When you're a reality star, you're a 'reality star.' And that's sort of the label that you get.

"And you want to use that celebrity for something good. You want to be more than that. You want to be someone that people take very seriously, and that's, I think, why some of them get into it."

But having a leg up in the recognition department hasn't always translated into votes for some of reality TV's most recognizable faces.

Thomas Ravenel, star of Bravo's Southern Charm, attempted to turn his television success into a victory at the ballot box. In 2014, the former South Carolina state treasurer ran as an independent against longtime Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. Though he polled in double digits early on, he ultimately lost to the incumbent with less than 4 percent of the vote.

Ravenel blamed everything from his late start to "personal problems" to Andy Cohen for his defeat.

He called his hasty campaign "ridiculous," telling People, "I was going to make an announcement that my child was being born, and at the last second Andy Cohen said, 'Announce that you're running for the U.S. Senate,' so I made a nationwide promise that I was going to run."

Cohen later said on Ask Andy that he had "no idea" why Ravenel was blaming him. "By the way, he could've said 'I'm running for office' on Watch What Happens Liveand then not ran for office. This isn't Meet the Press."

But isn't the network infighting just so Washington…

Moreover, for anyone running, Johnson says, "at a certain stage in our campaign you're going to have to prove you have a serious grasp of the issues [so] that voters can be comfortable with you."

That can make for a pretty uphill climb, depending on the series you've starred on.

"Especially if the show has some ridiculous situations," he said, "the kind of curve for people to accept you as serious is going to be a little higher. Maybe not so much so for American Idol or even The Real World; but if you had one of the contestants from Big Brother, you have a whole record of you maybe in compromising situations or ridiculous situations that your opponents could probably use to run against you."

Aiken, who lost to Ruben Studdard on the second season of American Idol and toArsenio Hall on the fifth season of Celebrity Apprentice, was dubbed "a runner-up once more" in 2014 after finishing in second place in his North Carolina congressional race against Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers. "About 11 years ago, after American Idol, we came up short in another vote," Aiken said at the time.

But his political ambitions scored him more TV time when last year the Esquire Network ran the four-episode docu-series, The Runner-Up, about the singer's campaign.

"There will always be a group of people that won't take you seriously," notes Phalen, who teaches a seminar on the intersection between Hollywood and politics, speaking generally of TV personalities turned aspiring politicians. "They'll always sort of put that 'reality star' label on you— and not in a good way. The term 'reality star' is a little bit downgrading."

She adds, "The implication is they have no business running for office."

And then there are politicians such as Sarah Palin who've run toward the cameras, in the former governor's case as a Fox News Channel pundit and the star of TLC'sSarah Palin's Alaska. The former Republican vice presidential candidate is next poised to wield the gavel in a pilot for a Judge Judy-esque reality courtroom show.

"There's such a blend now between politics and entertainment, and now politics and reality television, I don't think it's as jarring anymore," says Johnson. "It's not so much outside the realm of possibility."

And though Donald Trump—who hails from both the business and reality-TV worlds—has been a type of candidate unto himself, Johnson tells E! News that his surprisingly successful presidential campaign could spur a number of copycats.

"I would not be surprised if other people from reality TV think about [entering the political arena]," says Johnson. "Anytime there's a success among some kind of performer, you're going to have others probably getting the same idea."

But having a reality show on the resume obviously doesn't mean that a person shouldn't be taken seriously, either.

"You never know who's going to make a great leader," adds Phalen, "and it may be that some of these people who've won these reality contests or whatever would make great leaders.

"Being a reality star doesn't mean you can't be a good politician."



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Clay Aiken Is Still Plagued By Guilt Over His Primary Opponent’s Death



Clay Aiken Is Still Plagued By Guilt Over His Primary Opponent’s Death

He says he “didn’t have the balls” to reach out to the man’s wife.

 04/25/2016 06:01 am ET

Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

Jason Cherkis Reporter, The Huffington Post



When Clay Aiken ran for Congress in 2014, few people took the race seriously. And after his primary opponent died, the campaign trail became a dark and difficult place.

Clay Aiken’s congressional run in 2014 was never going to be a typical political affair. Not only was he a former “American Idol” and reality television star trying to hack it in the world of politics — he was an openly gay man running in a conservative House district in North Carolina. The ingredients were there for a tumultuous race.

Along the way, however, the campaign veered away from being entertaining into a dark, somber place. Just days after losing to Aiken by a narrow margin, his opponent in the primary, Keith Crisco, was found dead — bringing the election to a halt and deeply affecting everyone involved.

In the latest episode of the Candidate Confessional podcast, Aiken opens up about just how profound an impact that moment had, revealing the guilt he grapples with to this day. 



“This sounds incredibly selfish, because who am I to be bothered by my lack of closure when he has children, and a wife and grandkids that didn’t have closure with him? But I never got to tell him that I had a lot of respect for him and I never got to apologize for the fact that, at times, I wasn’t nice to him,” Aiken said.

“I wonder if his family hates me. I hope not,” he continued. “But I can’t help but wonder if one has a heart attack after they spend $750,000 and still lose to that little queer when he was far more qualified for it, at least on paper.”

When he found out about Crisco’s death, Aiken was sitting in a restaurant with his top strategist looking at potential campaign managers for the general election. A call came in to the strategist with the news. Everyone around the table was floored. They stayed there for an hour, barely speaking.

They decided to go dark politically. Aiken took down his ads and his website. He thought about going to the funeral but opted against it, worried that if he showed, he would become the story. Instead, he had a top aide reach out to the family to convey his condolences.

He never reached out himself, Aiken said.

“To be completely honest with you, I didn’t have the balls. I ain’t going to lie,” he said.

Eventually, things reverted back to normal — however normal a campaign can be. The general election began, Aiken struggled to overcome his perception as a pop star and went on to lose a race that, in all likelihood, neither he nor any Democrats was going to win in the difficult 2014 cycle. In the weeks and months after Crisco’s death, Aiken said he was too overwhelmed — physically and emotionally — to reach out to Crisco’s family. But in the months and years that followed, he hasn’t connected still. The guilt hasn’t receded, Aiken said, fighting back tears as he spoke.

“I have, almost every month even still here a year, two years on now, almost two years since he has passed away, have wondered, have thought about wanting to see her,” he said of Crisco’s widow. “I don’t think she hates me today. I hope she doesn’t.”

“I hope the family, his kids, don’t hate me today. They might still. But I’m sure they did that day,” Aiken said. “He had spent his last three months of his life away from them. He had canceled a vacation that he and his wife — they had planned to go to Cuba actually — and he had canceled that vacation to stay on the trail and run against me. The last three months of his life were stressful and not enjoyable, and I was to blame for that.”

This podcast was edited by Christine Conetta.

Listen to the podcast above or download it on iTunes. And while you’re there, please subscribe to, rate and review our show. Make sure to tune in to next week’s episode, when our guest will be Tim Miller, the communications director for Jeb Bush’s 2016 run for the White House. 


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Why Clay Aiken Didn’t Fully Embrace Being Gay Until The Day After His Campaign Ended



Why Clay Aiken Didn’t Fully Embrace Being Gay Until The Day After His Campaign Ended

“I just gayed it right up” when the race was done, he says.

 04/26/2016 07:39 am ET

Sam SteinSenior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

Jason CherkisReporter, The Huffington Post



Clay Aiken was conditioned to downplay his sexuality while running for Congress.

When he launched a long-shot, quixotic campaign for Congress, Clay Aiken held no illusions about how the public would perceive his sexuality. He was a famous musical artist and he was gay. He was, in fact, famous in part for being gay.

“Stevie Wonder can see that I am gay,” Aiken said. “People knew that.”

But as the topic of gay marriage was thrust to the forefront of his race after a circuit court overturned North Carolina’s ban on such unions, Aiken found himself trying to hide behind muddled political language. “I obfuscated,” he confessed. Rather than embrace the decision, he praised it cautiously, noting that it wasn’t settled until the Supreme Court ultimately had a say.

He was right, of course. But the caution he displayed left a bad impression in the minds of voters and a bad taste in Aiken’s mouth. In the latest episode of the “Candidate Confessional” podcast, he expressed regret for the way he handled it.

“The true conservatives certainly heard that and thought, ‘Well he is full of shit.’ And I believed and hoped that the moderates — yet conservative moderates — would hear it and say, ‘Okay, well at least he didn’t say ‘Yay gay marriage, let’s all get gay married. Ok, let me hear what he has to say about the other thing,’” Aiken said.

“So I tried really hard not to just say, ‘Hell yeah, I’m glad they overturned it. And y’all are bigots for voting for it,’” he added. “And I probably wouldn’t say it that way, still, if I ran again. But I think on that question, maybe I should have just said, ‘Listen, everybody knows I’m gay. It is not a secret. Everybody knows I’m happy that this thing is overturned. But that’s not why I’m running.’”

It’s easy to second-guess political decisions in retrospect. But it’s worth noting that Aiken had been conditioned to carefully play issues of LGBT rights and equality from the start of his campaign. He recalled an early meeting he had with one of his consultants where he explained why he had become a Democrat.

“I think that I always, somehow — even though I didn’t know I was gay — knew that there was something going on. And that made me need a champion and that’s why I wanted to be a Democrat,” he said, citing icons like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and former North Carolina Sen. Terry Sanford as particular inspirations. “I told that story to my consultant,” he went on, “and she listened and she had a little bit of a tear in her eye and she said, ‘That is amazing. Don’t you ever tell that story to anybody on this trail.’ ... She said, ‘I don’t think that’s necessarily a good idea in this very very conservative district.’”  

Aiken ultimately lost. And it likely had little to do with him being gay. 2014 was a brutal election cycle for Democrats. He was running in a very conservative district and he was dogged by perceptions that he was a pop star presumptuously assuming he could hack into the world of politics. But with that loss came a sense of liberation. The day after the campaign, Aiken called up his communications director and asked if he wanted to go see a movie.

What movie? we asked.

“I just gayed it right up,” Aiken explained. “I was like, ‘I ain’t running no more. I’m going to go see something gay.’ We went and saw ‘Pride’ ... I was like, ‘Hell, I’m just gonna go to the art house.”



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Clay Aiken Gained 30 Pounds Eating Bojangles Chicken During His Campaign



Clay Aiken Gained 30 Pounds Eating Bojangles Chicken During His Campaign

“You convince yourself that it is healthy because it is chicken.”

 04/28/2016 06:00 am ET

Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post



Clay Aiken eating — before his campaign. He gained his weight on the campaign trail, but we couldn’t find a photo of him eating from that time.

Life on the campaign trail is not conducive to good health. The days are long. The stress is intense. The sleep is fleeting. The food is plentiful — and much of it is, well, crap.

Many candidates, staffers and the journalists who cover them put on quite a few pounds during the campaign cycle.

Clay Aiken, the former American Idol star who ran for a North Carolina congressional seat in 2014, put on 30 during his time on the trail; or, as he put it, “30 fucking pounds.”

How did this happen? He explained in the latest Candidate Confessional podcast.

“I ran in a very rural district too, so pretty much every day Bojangles, because you don’t get out of the car. I mean, you’re in the car all the time. So it was fast food and then of course every event you go to, people have put food out for you. They’ve prepared food for you. And it is good. But if you don’t eat it, you look rude. So I just had to keep stuffing my face. Thirty pounds.”


Aiken’s Bojangles meal of choice that summer was a four-piece supreme dinner with dirty rice. There were no healthy choices there, he explained. But you did have the option of mentally tricking yourself into believing your calorie intake wasn’t so bad.

“You convince yourself that it is healthy because it is chicken,” Aiken said. 
As for the weight, “it’s gone now,” he added.


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Losers Need Love Too: Why Voting for Bernie Is Still So Important



Losers Need Love Too: Why Voting for Bernie Is Still So Important

 05/02/2016 06:18 pm ET | Updated 26 minutes ago

Clay Aiken Democratic candidate for U.S. Representative of North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District



Everyone likes a winner.

I would know; I’ve never been one.

If any group lives by this mantra, politicians do. And everyone wants to be on a winner’s team.

That’s why so few people were willing to run against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. As the presumptive favorite and expected winner, no one wanted to get on her bad side. Keeping a winner happy in politics is powerful currency. It’s why superdelegates lined up behind the Secretary as soon as she announced her candidacy. They anticipated a Clinton victory in the primary (and in November), and early adopters will likely have her in their corner. Smart politics.

The desire to be associated with a winner is also why, by mid-May of 2008, superdelegates began defecting from then-Senator Clinton and throwing their support behind then-Senator Obama. As the tide began to shift and it began to look like he would be the nominee, a lot of those winner loving politicians began to cozy up to the future President.

The electorate does it, too. When it became clear that John McCain would win the Republican nomination in 2008, voters gave him decisive victories in the last 36 contests. Mitt Romney didn’t lose a primary after March in 2012. With the single exception of John Edwards winning his home state of NC, voters chose John Kerry in every state after he swept Super Tuesday. And, it looks like Donald Trump’s margins of victory are ever increasing this year. Voters like to side with the winner, too.

But there’s a strange phenomenon happening on the Democratic side this year. Bernie’s voters aren’t going away.

I feel the Bern. I voted for Senator Sanders and I’m proud to support him. But, we have to be honest: barring some unlikely, earth shattering, (and it would probably have to be supernatural) event, Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination. I believe she will be a great candidate. I believe she will be a great President. I’m with her.

That said, ignore the trend of backing the winner! You should still vote for Bernie!

Bernie can still win.

No. No. I’m not contradicting myself. Bernie isn’t going to win the nomination. But there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and Bernie could end up with more power and influence than the eventual President, even still.

Mr. Sanders went to Washington in 1990. He came into the House as what The Washington Post called “the first socialist elected to the House in decades,” and his opposition to the political parties in Washington didn’t win him any friends. Secretary Clinton is right to point out that in his quarter of a century in Congress, Sanders has introduced very little successful legislation. Of course, without party support and influence it’s pretty tough to get much one, and for years even Democrats in the House and the Senate have been able to write Bernie Sanders off as a fringe congressman with wild ideas that could be ignored. Not anymore. Every vote for Bernie in the primary is a signal to the Democratic establishment that the voters in the party want more progressive policies and more attention brought to the issues that Bernie is talking about. He can’t be written off anymore. But that’s the obvious stuff.

Because of continuing support that hasn’t faded in the wake of his loss, Sen. Sanders will score major victories in Philadelphia when the Party is developing its platform. Votes he wins in later states like California and Oregon and Indiana and New Jersey will translate into delegates, and delegates translate into power when it comes to determining the direction of the party in years to come. The “movement” that has grown stronger because Bernie has given it a voice has been full of Americans who have said that we are tired of corporate money in politics, tired of tax breaks for the 1% and tired of unbearable debt for college education. That movement needs to stay strong and have as many delegates at the party convention to guarantee that the Democratic Party carries that message forward and stands for what progressives want and the country needs. Every vote from here on out just strengthens Sanders’ clout at the convention to do ensure that.

Bernie’s also got position coming his way. With Trump or Cruz at the top of the ticket, the chances of the Democrats taking back the Senate grows exponentially. As Ranking Member of the Budget Committee in the Senate, Sen. Sanders is in line to take over one of the most powerful committees in Congress, and with it wield massive influence over the types of programs that get funded in this country. As powerful as a committee chairman typically is, a committee chairman with massive name recognition and a mandate from millions of loud and active supporters has a formidable bully pulpit. Every vote Bernie gets builds on that.

Despite a spirited primary, I fully expect Sen. Sanders will vocally support Sec. Clinton in the general election and likely campaign on her behalf. He’ll hold her accountable on the trail to talk about the issues that are important to him and his supporters. With the increased attention and clout that he’ll gain in the Senate as a result of every vote cast for him in the primary, he’ll be holding her accountable in office. Hillary Clinton has now said in debates with Bernie that she supports a healthy raise in the minimum wage. From his new perch of influence in the Senate, Bernie is going to be able to draw attention to that again and keep her on track on those promises she’s made. I certainly don’t think she would do so, but just let a President Hillary Clinton try to appoint a Treasury Secretary who’s cozy with Wall Street and big banks. Try to get that past Sen. Bernie Sanders and his national profile, powerful position, and legions of vocal supporters. Not gonna happen. Votes for Bernie, even though they won’t make him the nominee, will still make him a big and powerful bulldog in Washington.

And so will money. Very little can motivate a member of Congress to do something more than campaign donations can. Powerful fundraising is what get Speakers and Majority Leaders elected to their positions. It’s what gets legislators to sign on as co-sponsors of bills. All too often, it even gets them to vote a certain way. Congressmen who can fundraise can govern, and boy can he fundraise. Given his overwhelming popularity in Vermont, Bernie’s Senate seat is pretty safe. That means he can encourage and direct his supporters to support those Representatives and Senators who support a truly progressive agenda. We’ve seen how fast those $27 donations can add up to historic numbers. Bernie is about to have a lot of friends in Washington. So don’t just vote for him, send him another $27.

Bernie Sanders’ voters aren’t just going away in the same way that losing candidates’ voters have disappeared in the past once their viability was gone. A big part of that has to do with the fact that Bernie’s voters aren’t just voting for Bernie. We are voting for the causes he supports and the solutions he aspires to. Bernie’s path to the nomination is all but closed now, but the path to strengthening his message is still wide open. Even though he’s not likely to be the nominee nor the President, Bernie’s agenda will not die as long as his supporters stay with him. 
So, California, Oregon, New Jersey, Indiana, Mew Mexico and all of the other states who still have a chance to vote your issues, do not be deterred. If voters in the states with upcoming primaries continue to go to the polls and #berntheballot for Sen. Sanders he well may come out of this process a bigger winner than if he had won the nomination.

Let’s get Ready for Hillary in November!

In the meantime, though, keep lending your muscle to the message and the movement. VOTE BERNIE SANDERS.



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Clay Aiken: North Carolina Bathroom Law Will Backfire



Clay Aiken: North Carolina Bathroom Law Will Backfire

Published May 06, 2016 Politics FOXBusiness

The North Carolina transgender law has received its share of backlash from gay rights groups, political figures, sports leagues, entertainers and companies who have threatened to stop doing business there.

In March, North Carolina became the first state to require transgender people to use restrooms in public buildings and schools conforming to the sex on their birth certificate instead of one that matches their gender identity.

During an interview with the FOX Business Network’s Varney & Co., former “Celebrity Apprentice” contestant Clay Aiken said the General Assembly in North Carolina has overreached in the last five years and made the transgender law a political issue.

The former “American Idol” contestant told host Stuart Varney that the central point surrounding the North Carolina transgender law revolves around one question: “Do you want to go to the bathroom with Caitlyn Jenner?”

“People have been using the bathroom that they associate with for decades and it hasn’t been a problem,” Aiken said. “This is a problem that was created and manufactured by the [North Carolina] General Assembly.”

The North Carolina native says transgender men and women have been using the restrooms they associate with for years without anyone really taking notice.

“Common sense again says that this is something that’s been going on for years and you didn’t realize it and this is a political ploy on the General Assembly’s part.”

Aiken, who ran for Congress as a Democrat in North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District in 2014, says the incentive behind the transgender law is to boost voter turnout in his home state.

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, told a town hall style event hosted by NBC’s “Today” show at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan that transgender people should be allowed to use any bathroom they feel comfortable with — including at Trump Tower in New York.

Aiken says what scares him about Trump is the inconsistency of his views and he thinks Trump rides his own personal wave.

“He agrees with me on the HB2 (House Bill 2) on the transgender law so he certainly takes the pulse of what the crowd in front of him says. And for someone who’s going to potentially be president with their finger on the trigger, that is not something that I want,” Aiken said.



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My Home State’s Anti-LGBT Law Is Emblematic of a Much Larger Problem



My Home State’s Anti-LGBT Law Is Emblematic of a Much Larger Problem

 05/10/2016 10:36 am ET

Clay AikenDemocratic candidate for U.S. Representative of North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District


Almost every gay man has one. Gay women, too.

We all have someone who was our “first.”

No! I’m not talking about that kind of first. I’m talking about a different first.

I’m talking about a more important kind of first. For many, it was the first person we truly trusted, the first person who made us feel comfortable, the first who made us feel truly safe.

I’m talking about the first person we came out to.

Kimberley Locke was my first.

Kim was a contestant with me on the second season of American Idol. The time in my life was both exciting and educational. I can see the irony now, but at that point in my life, while most of America watching at home believed they knew I was gay, I did not. I mean, I had thought about it. I had worried about it, but it wasn’t until I was 24 that I admitted it to myself. The idea of admitting it to someone else seemed unfathomable and terrifying.

That fear — often irrational fear — can do some awful things to a young, closeted LGBT person’s self esteem and mental health. We see far too many take their lives, in fact, largely because of the fear of being rejected when they come out. That’s why “the first” plays such an immeasurably important role in our lives. The first time is the hardest. The first time is the scariest. And, the first time, is life-alteringly consequential. You see, how “the first” reacts and responds will set the course for how, when and even if we tell anyone else. If “the first” responds with understanding and warmth and acceptance, then it cracks a hard shell and makes it just that much easier to be oneself and hopefully open up to others. Fortunately, that’s how my first was. Kimberley was a strong and opinionated black woman, a black woman from the South, even. The fact that she accepted me without the slightest moment of hesitation — was even excited for me — immediately shaped the way I was able to tell other friends and love ones in the coming months and years. Had she been angry or incredulous, or worse yet, had she shunned me in some way, the result would have been devastating.

For some of us, we don’t really choose “the first.” The moment may choose itself when that person is someone you trust so deeply and genuinely. For others, the choice of who to come out to first is a thoughtful process. Deciding who you can speak to totally openly and without fear of retribution nor shaming is daunting. Even more importantly, it must be someone who’s not going to run and tell everyone else like a town gossip. For that reason alone, a lot of teenagers and adults first come out to their school counselor or psychologist or a therapist of some kind. Individuals in those professions are not only legally and honor-bound to keep all things said to them in confidence, they are also professionally trained to hear a student or patient’s deepest secrets and struggles, to help them heal the fear and pain and self doubt that comes with that, and to guide them wisely through a processes that will hopefully result in them feeling more comfortable with who they are. School counselors, psychologists and therapists are a good choice for “the first.”

Just... Not in Tennessee.

No. Not in Tennessee. If you’re a young man or young woman struggling with their own sexual orientation or identity you no longer have the security of knowing that a school counselor or a therapist’s office is a safe place for you.

After Gov. Bill Haslam signed HB 1840 (also known as the “Turn Away The Gays” bill) into law two weeks ago, now school counselors and therapists and psychologists all over Tennessee are legally allowed to worship and praise their Lord by rejecting His most vulnerable children. After all, that’s what Jesus would do, right?

Every frightened teen or young adult in a Tennessee school must now feel just as worried about telling someone who was, before this ridiculous law, at least required to keep your secret and help you get past the first hurdle. Now, that school counselor can reject you and tell you they don’t approve of you and you need to go talk to someone else. Man, that’s gonna feel great to that frightened 14 year old. I’m sure that won’t scar him for life — insert sarcasm font.

Sane and reasonable people of the world: Don’t worry. For now, any homophobic or closed minded counselors and psychologists are still required to keep these conversations in confidence.

Small-minded people of the world: Don’t worry. At the rate these laws types of laws are passing in many states, it’s only a matter of time before some backwoods genius introduces a bill requiring a school counselor to notify a student’s parents if he/she comes out. (To be fair, Tennessee already tried this.)

I’m sure you’re sitting there thinking that I am just trying to divert your attention away from the anti-LGBT law that’s getting so much national attention from my state of North Carolina. No, not entirely. I mean, I fully confess that the lawmakers and the situation in NC are a trainwreck. I also admit that, if they were giving out awards for “the decade’s most ridiculous example of legislated hate” we in NC would be the odds on favorite to win! But, yes, I’m doing a little bit of diversion here. I mean North Carolina isn’t the only state coming up with creative and unique ways to dehumanize and discriminate against an entire segment of the population. There are a half a dozen other states who have passed or are working on passing laws that allow their citizens to praise Jesus by treating His children like “the least of these”... and I don’t want North Carolina to get all of the credit for being the best “Christians.”

We mentioned Tennessee and their “Turn Away The Gays” bill. It’s now officially law. Well done, y’all.

How about Mississippi? Here’s a state that, with the nation’s highest unemployment rate, the lowest graduation rate and the lowest median family income, realized that the best use of their legislative time was to pass and sign into law HB 1523, a law that not only protects school counselors from having to listen to those pesky “coming out” stories like in Tennessee, but it also ensures that any church or pastor has the legal right to refuse to marry a same sex couple or host a same sex wedding. It also gives all employers the religious freedom to fire any employee for being gay, and gives any landlord the right to evict you if you love someone of the same gender.

Of course, Mississippi already had laws that allowed churches and pastors to reject loving same sex couples. I guess the legislature and the governor just wanted to make another law about it to remind God that they were serving Him. The good news is, Mississippi’s law doesn’t go into effect until July 1, so if you’ve always wanted to be the kingpin over an all-heterosexual real estate empire, there’s still time to go buy up property in Mississippi. I’m sure that’s the type of economic development they were hoping for.

Of course, let’s not forget Kentucky, America’s crown jewel of enlightenment. Kentucky may have the lowest percentage of high school graduates in the country, but there’s no lack of creativity in this state. This is, after all, where a state senator has proposed a law that would pay any student $2,500 if they reported a transgender student using the “wrong” bathroom in school. It’s not really clear whether this was just an incredibly stupid and hateful law or just a smart economic development initiative, but for a Republican to promote that type of government handout, he must really want to show God how much he is serving Him and His people.

There’s more. Oh, there’s more. I won’t go into them now, but as a North Carolinian, I feel sort of guilty that our state and Governor Pat McCrory has taken all of the attention and spotlight for the “bathroom bill” in NC when so many other states and governors and legislators deserve “praise” too. And that’s sort of my point.

You see, that’s what they want anyway. Attention and praise. I don’t really even believe that many of these states have enough legislators and governors who believe in such hateful lawmaking to pass such discriminatory laws based on their beliefs alone. I know that the citizens and voters of these states are consistently polled and report that they disagree with such stupid legislation. In fact, a poll held in my state right after the passing of HB2 showed that only 38% of North Carolinians approve of it and 57% believe that all or most of it should be repealed.

Yet, good ol’ guv McCrory seems content to fight on to keep it in place.

How is it that so many voters are against these laws, yet so many legislators are for them? It’s because voters don’t choose their politicians anymore. Politicians choose their voters.

In NC, in each of the last two elections over 50% of voters voted for the Democratic candidates on the ballot. Yet, somehow, the 13 member NC congressional delegation is only 23% Democrat, the NC Senate is only 32% Democrat and the NC House is only 38% Democrat. If the General Assembly thinks this is appropriate, maybe they should be spending a bit more on education funding.

They love it though. They’ve drawn their districts in NC and in Tennessee and in Mississippi, and Kentucky and dozens of other states to make sure that their party stays in power, they they keep their seats safe in an election... and, in turn, that they only have to pander to the most extreme of their voter base. That’s why they aren’t listening to the majority of voter opinion.

Plus, these gay-hating laws work, right? I mean, it worked for Bush in 2004. When Karl Rove and dozens of states made same sex marriage the issue du jour for that election, the staunch religious conservatives poured to the polls, en masse, and praised and gave honor to Jesus with their votes for the Republicans.

They made it an issue in 2014, as well. As U.S. Circuit Courts were striking down same-sex marriage bans left and right, the GOP made hay of it and rallied their supporters to the polls to stop Satan from stealing the soul of America. And it worked then too.

But, oh no! What now? The Supreme Court came down on the right side of history and they can’t make political hay out of same-sex marriage anymore. What’s a good political operative to do?

Well, North Carolina isn’t the only state coming up with great ideas in an attempt to get their voter base to the polls. Mississippi is going to protect them from having to live next to homos.

Tennessee is going to protect them from having to dishonor God by being caring and empathetic to a scared and vulnerable child. Kentucky has decided it might work to get voters to turn out in November if they just promise kids they’ll give them money to buy a car if they’ll just stake out the toilets in their schools all day. And North Carolina just wants to make you afraid that someone more fabulous than you might be taking a shit nearby.

Don’t be fooled. They are all just political ploys. Desperate attempts to save their jobs by political theatre rather than by actually legislating anything that will really improve the lives of their constituents. When you’re not really good at your job, it’s a lot easier to rally people around a common group to hate.

But don’t worry. Just like the Supreme Court shot down and took away their last bit of currency when it legalized marriage equality, the Courts will rule all of these pieces of crap unconstitutional, as well.

Until then, though, if you are a school counselor or therapist in Tennessee who can’t bear to help a vulnerable LGBT teenager as they take the first step in one of the hardest and scariest journeys of their life.... Please get a different f*cking job.



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Carmen Rasmusen Herbert: Goodbye, Rickey Smith



Carmen Rasmusen Herbert: Goodbye, Rickey Smith

By Carmen Rasmusen Herbert, For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, May 19 2016 7:40 p.m. MDT

Updated: 3 hours ago


Ruben Studdard, left, Melinda Doolittle, Clay Aiken, Julia DeMato, Carmen Rasmusen Herbert (holding her son), Julia DeMato's mother, Vanessa Oliverez, and Charles Grigsby (and wife) celebrated the life of Rickey Smith after his funeral in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Provided by Carmen Rasmusen Herbert

I was in the car headed down to St. George when I got a phone call from one of my friends from "American Idol," Clay Aiken.

“I need to give you some heavy news.”

Clay told me our dear friend and fellow “American Idol” contestant Rickey Smith had died in a car accident on May 6.

My husband held my hand as I softly sobbed in the front seat, thinking back on the short time I had known and grown to love Rickey.

He was the first person to welcome me to the “family” when I made the Top 12. I can still see the carpet of the red Coca-Cola “green room” backstage, lit up by the stage lights, and looking up only long enough to catch a glimpse of Rickey’s warm, encouraging smile as I took my place beside him to walk onstage.

He was the one who stood up for me when I was placed in several uncomfortable situations, including a movie night where the show picked was rated R.

“Carmen’s a Mormon, and she said Mormons don’t watch rated-R movies!” Rickey exclaimed. I was so grateful that he told me, and that he expected me to stick to my standards, even if it meant leaving the group to spend the night alone.

It was Rickey who told me he thought I was the true “American Idol,” because at such a young age (I was 17 when the season started), I had some idea of what was most important in life. He told me to stay good. To stay pure. To stay innocent. To stay sweet. He told me he loved me, and I will never forget the way he made me feel that night — like I was important to this world, like I was important to him.

A few months later, we went on tour. Rickey took it upon himself, along with Ruben Studdard and Clay, to be my “protectors.” They all called me “lil’ sis” and would yell “Earmuffs!” if they ever didn’t want me to hear a dirty joke or swear word. After touring all over the country, we had our farewell show in Los Angeles, and I said goodbye to my friends who were really more like family, promising to keep in touch.

But life has a way, over time, of slowly erasing good intentions, and I lost contact with many of my friends over the years.

A few years ago, I received a message on Facebook from Rickey. It read:

“Carmen!! How are you darling? I hope all is well with you, you have a beautiful family, thank you for adding me as a friend on Facebook I hope we can keep in touch. I love and miss you. We need to catch up soon!! Love and blessings, Rickey.”

I wrote him back, but that was the last correspondence we had. It hurts my soul to think I won’t get to catch up with him soon.

But because of his passing, I was able to get in touch with almost every other Season 2 contestant. We all messaged back and forth, stating how this tragic event has made us realize how much we really love and care about each other.

"It certainly makes one realize the importance of staying in touch with people who are important to you. It may have been a decade and a half ago … but we are all such an integral part of each other's stories. I love each of you," Clay said.

Rickey had a way of doing that, even in death. Bringing us all together.

A few days ago, I sat around the breakfast table in Oklahoma City surrounded by friends from my past, thinking about how precious and unpredictable life is. We laughed, cried and held each other as we relived stories about our "Idol" days and how special that time was.

Ruben was still the same old Ruben, talking about how much he craves “that Nielsen’s Frozen Custard;” Julia DeMato was still dramatic; Vanessa Olivarez was still a spitfire; Charles "Charlie" Grigsby was as sweet and genuine as ever. And I was still the “baby sis,” with a baby of my own on my lap, silently taking it all in, even as Ruben looked at me and, smiling, said “Earmuffs!” as he said something he thought I might not think appropriate.

I have learned so much from this diverse group of people who shared one incredible life experience with me. And as heart-wrenching as it was to get up on stage one more time as an "Idol" family and sing Rickey home, it was, at the same time, healing.

As we stood at his gravesite saying our goodbyes “for now, until we meet again,” I had the feeling that if he were here, Rickey would be telling us to continue to live, to continue to love, to hold on to each other even as we let him go.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.



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Clay Aiken Says Goodbye To Renee Ellmers In Video Tweet



Clay Aiken Says Goodbye To Renee Ellmers In Video Tweet


ByLAUREN FOX PublishedJUNE 7, 2016, 9:16 PM EDT

Former American Idol star Clay Aiken couldn't defeat Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) in the 2014 election, but he merrily sent her on her way Tuesday night after she was lost her Republican primary.

Aiken tweeted Tuesday night "It's official! Goodbye @RepReneeEllmers You won't be missed.#walkawayrenee."

He included a photo montage of Ellmers with "Walk Way Renee" playing in the background.

It's official! Goodbye @RepReneeEllmers You won't be missed. #walkawayreneepic.twitter.com/7bJxQy9JXn

— Clay Aiken (@clayaiken) June 8, 2016



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Trump-backed Rep. Ellmers becomes first GOP incumbent to lose primary



Trump-backed Rep. Ellmers becomes first GOP incumbent to lose primary

Eliza Collins, USA TODAY9:47 p.m. EDT June 7, 2016


In this May 19, 2016, file photo, Rep. Renee Ellmers listens while facing off with Greg Brannon and Rep. George Holding during the 2nd District Republican primary debate at WRAL studio in Raleigh, N.C. (Photo: Travis Long, AP)

North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers became the first Republican incumbent to lose a primary on Tuesday just days after Donald Trump endorsed her.

Trump backed Ellmers in a robocall that went out on Saturday calling her a “fighter” who could help him get things done in Washington. It was his first official congressional endorsement.

But on Tuesday, she lost in a primary to Rep. George Holding after redistricting forced the two North Carolina incumbents to compete for the seat.

Ellmers suffered when Susan B. Anthony List, a group dedicated to electing anti-abortion Republicans to office, endorsed her opponent. SBA was upset when Ellmers attempted to stall a 20-week abortion bill that had the caveat that a woman subject to rape or incest would have to report it to authorities to qualify for an exemption from the ban.

Ellmers' loss also came the same day as a video of her telling a North Carolina Republican woman that she had gained some weight.

“You’re eating a little bit too much pork barbecue. Whoo!” Ellmers said as she walked past.

Former American Idol star Clay Aiken, who lost his challenge to Ellmers in the 2014 election, wasted no time weighing in on the results.


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Clay Aiken Attacks Trump On Twitter Following Terror Attack



Clay Aiken Attacks Trump on Twitter Following Terror Attack

Katie Jerkovich



2:01 PM 06/12/2016

Clay Aiken, candidate for U.S. Congress in North Carolina's Second District, casts his vote in the midterm elections on November 4, 2014 at Mills Park Elementary School in Cary, North Carolina. (Photo: Getty Images)

Clay Aiken attacked Donald Trump on social media following the terror attack in Orlando.

On Sunday, the 37-year-old singer attacked the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for his response to the terror attack at an LGBT night club that killed 50 people and injured more than 50 others. (RELATED: Hollywood Reacts To Trump Becoming The Presumptive GOP Nominee)

“Real Donald Trump This was a hate based attacks on gay people,” he tweeted “Do you have the courage to call it that?”

Trump tweeted following the news of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

“Really bad shooting in Orlando,” he tweeted. “Police investigating possible terrorism. Many people dead and wounded.”

Aiken also attacked the news channel CNN for their reports following the shooting. “Ok CNN,” he tweeted. “This MIGHT have been Islamic terrorism. But it DEFINITELY was a targeted attack on gays!” “And you’re totally downplaying that,” he added.

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2016/06/12/clay-aiken-attacks-trump-on-twitter-following-terror-attack/#ixzz4BTX4fzVc



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Clay Aiken Makes An Important Point About LGBT Rights & The Orlando Shooting



Clay Aiken Makes An Important Point About LGBT Rights & The Orlando Shooting


Jeffrey A. Camarati/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images


20 hours ago NEWS

In wholly unsurprising news, the mass shooting at the gay nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando, Florida, has spurred discussions on a variety of social issues, including LGBT rights and the treatment of people in the LGBT community. And how could it not? The tragedy has turned out to be the deadliest shooting in United States history, and it was an attack on a venue filled with LGBT patrons. Many people, including celebrities, are speaking out about this atrocity, including none other than one-time political candidate and formerAmerican Idol star Clay Aiken.

Aiken, who is gay, took to Twitter to highlight the alarming truth that despite the fact that an LGBT person attending Pulse could have come out of that malicious Orlando attack safe and sound, there is the still the possibility that that very same person could go to work in the following days unsure of their job security because of their sexual orientation.

Aiken also said the below in response to a tweet that said, "True and all, but wrong time."

Aiken makes an important point. While we can denounce the heinous act at Pulse nightclub and sympathize and mourn with the LGBT community, the United States still has a long way to go in terms of LGBT people achieving equal rights on the most basic levels, and Aiken is making sure that his followers are fully aware of this. What happened at Pride is enormously tragic, but it's important to recognize that LGBT people face discrimination and danger in their lives every single day, both in America and around the world.



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June 16


Celebrities Holding The Mic



Celebrities Holding The Mic

June 16, 2016Posted at 12:41 PM

Posted by Duana

I’ve been the first to say we should treat entertainers like entertainers, not role models. But in the wake of the Orlando massacre, there are reactions that make me think that, sometimes, I should revise my opinion – including my opinion on some of the stars having the reactions in the first place.

Of course scores of celebs have expressed sorrow and solidarity, said that love is love, and meant it. Their messages remind their fans how they feel and encourage them to donate.

But I love the ones that dig in a little deeper.

Lainey linked to Samantha Bee’s rant on Full Frontal yesterday, but I’m partial to their subsequent livetweets of the gun control filibuster. This one is my favourite:

Then there’s Anderson Cooper, who was patient and even as he calmly, logically, and systematically eviscerated Florida’s Attorney General, who had the audacity to say she supported “our” LGBT community after previously having said that gay people were trying to “induce public harm” to the people of Florida. He calmly calls her a hypocrite, and he does not let up.

"Anderson, I don't believe that gay people could do harm to the state of Florida." 

"But you argued that in court."


Have you already seen yesterday's #Ham4Ham?

In The Heights/Get On Your Feet star Andréa Burns, who is from Florida, sang after Lin-Manuel Miranda asked people to donate to thePulse Victims' Fund. She sings What I Did For Love, which is of course a known heartbreaker:

As we travel on
Love’s what we’ll remember
Kiss today goodbye
And point me toward tomorrow

We did what we had to do
Won’t regret, can’t regret
What I did for love
What I did for love

But it’s also a f-ck you. To the sh-tty people who have said horrible things. The ones you’ve deleted from your Facebook. The ones who refuse to call this a hate crime against LGBT people, instead just using the blanket ‘tragedy’ and then hurrying to talk about uncomplicated things. 

Won’t regret. Can’t regret. Because nobody should have to.

But you know who was a surprise to me? Clay Aiken. I never thought I was going to think about Clay Aiken again, let alone admire him. But he points out that Florida is all ‘with the victims’ on the one hand, but still discriminates against them on the other hand.

I’m not naïve – he’s a literal politician. But he’s also openly gay andsomeone that people’s grandmothers like. He’s using his powers for good, and I am more interested than him than I ever was before so…it’s working. 

If you’re still, understandably, overwhelmed and need something to smile about, Lin-Manuel Miranda also tweeted that he and scores of other stars recorded What The World Needs Now Is Love to benefit the LGBT Center of Central Florida. It will be released Monday, and has everyone from Audra McDonald to Idina Menzel to Sarah Jessica Parker to Kristen Bell to Rosie O’Donnell. Maybe we’ll have a live listening party. (For still more of a pick-me-up, check out this thread that appeared on Reddit, (thanks Olivia!) about a guy who thought he could mess with his girlfriend’s Hamilton tickets. It's worth it.)

As Lainey wrote earlier, it’s been such a sh-tty time. Nothing’s enough. But maybe it helps, just a little, to remind yourself of all the people who are on the same side.



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Clay Aiken said despite Orlando tragedy, gays in Florida can be fired for being gay



Clay Aiken said despite Orlando tragedy, gays in Florida can be fired for being gay

By C. Eugene Emery Jr. on Monday, June 20th, 2016 at 12:30 p.m.

As the motive behind the deadly Jun 12 shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando was still being debated, singer Clay Aiken took to Twitter to characterize it as a hate crime and report that gays can be summarily fired in Florida simply because of their sexual orientation.

"A gay man who survived #orlando hate crime can STILL show up to work in FL tomorrow and have his boss fire him simply because he is gay," Aiken tweeted.

For this fact check, we will look at whether Florida really offers no job protection to gays and lesbians.

The short answer: Aiken is mostly correct when it comes to Florida as a whole, but he's wrong to suggest that there is no protection anywhere in the state.

Federal law does not protect the employment rights of the LGBT community, nor does the state of Florida.

However, thanks to city and county law, members of the LGBT community do have employment protection in some areas of Florida.

Currently, 10 counties and 19 cities, including Tampa, St. Petersburg, Miami, Miami Beach, St. Augustine, Sarasota and Orlando, have passed protections for gay workers, according to Frank Penela, communications director for the Florida Commission on Human Relations.

Penela also reported that although state law doesn't specifically reference LGBT status in employment, "the Commission will accept some cases under sex-based discrimination.  Allegations of gender identity/transgender discrimination, for example, can be viewed as sex discrimination."

Aiken spokesman Josh Pultz noted that bills designed to add protection for gender identity and sexual orientation died in Florida's House and Senate in 2016.

"Regardless of existing employment anti discrimination ordinances protecting LGBT in at least 31 municipalities, covering as many as 15 counties in the state, the state does not provide such protections — leaving LGBT workers in as many as 52 of the 67 counties without any protection from being terminated because of their orientation," Pultz said in an email.

"Clay's comment stated nothing more than that a gay man in Florida can still be fired for being gay. It did not specify any certain municipality and therefore is factually accurate," he wrote.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union's website, 22 states and the District of Columbia prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. The District and 19 states also ban discrimination based on gender identity. That makesFlorida one of 28 states with no statewide protection against discrimination.

Our ruling

Aiken tweeted, "A gay man who survived #orlando hate crime can STILL show up to work in FL tomorrow and have his boss fire him simply because he is gay."

That is generally true across the state, because gays and lesbians lack protection from employment discrimination under state law and under federal law. However, 19 Florida cities often offer protection to gay workers, including the city of Orlando. Another 10 counties also offer protections.

We rate Aiken’s statement Mostly True.



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ABC’s “The View” films segment at Sanford’s Dairy Bar



ABC’s “The View” films segment at Sanford’s Dairy Bar


Noted famous people Clay Aiken and Raven-Symone were at the Fairview Dairy Bar in Sanford on Wednesday morning to film a segment for ABC Television’s “The View.”

Steve Brewer, who owns the Dairy Bar, said the network reached out to him Tuesday evening and asked if Aiken, Symone and their crew could use the restaurant as a filming location to discuss North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2 with patrons.

“I think he’ll find people on both sides of it,” Brewer said. “And that’s what he said he wanted, to get both sides.”

Aiken and Symone declined to be interviewed, but before filming began Aiken could be heard explaining to Symone why he wanted to film in Sanford.

“This is Sanford, which is about 40 minutes outside of Raleigh,” he could be heard saying. “This place just sort of feels like a microcosm of the whole state.”

Aiken, a North Carolina native, ran for Congress in 2014 in what was then North Carolina’s Second Congressional District, which included Sanford and Lee County.

Aiken and Symone then went to various tables and sat talking with patrons about the controversial legislation, which prevents transgender individuals from using public bathrooms for the gender with which they identify. Supporters of the bill say it was aimed at preventing sexual predators from preying on children in public bathrooms; opponents have pointed to a number of issues including provisions which appear to make various forms of discrimination legal. Stories about the law’s negative economic impact have been abundant, and the state and federal governments have filed competing lawsuitsover its implementation.


Brewer seemed glad to have the company, regardless of the politics. He said he was surprised to hear from the TV crew.

“I asked them why they wanted to use my restaurant, and they told me because Clay really liked it,” Brewer said. “They said he said we had the best banana pudding around.”

There was no word Wednesday on when the segment will air.



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EXCLUSIVE: Raven-Symone and Clay Aiken Talk to Transgender Duo About North Carolina's Anti-LGBT Law on 'The View'



EXCLUSIVE: Raven-Symone and Clay Aiken Talk to Transgender Duo About North Carolina's Anti-LGBT Law on 'The View'

by Philiana Ng 4:15 PM PDT, June 28, 2016

Raven-Symone and Clay Aiken visited North Carolina recently, where they spoke to two transgender individuals about the state’s controversial LGBT bill that bars trans people from using public bathrooms for the gender they identify as.

During the sit-down interview, which will air on Wednesday's episode of The View, Skye Thomsonand Madeline Goss open up about their personal experiences dealing with the ramifications of House Bill 2, detailing separate incidents where they, as well as a friend, were thrown out of a bathroom because others complained.

When Aiken asks what was more difficult, following the law or not, they both said “following it.”

“If you really are an ally, you have to understand that a trans woman is a woman, a trans man is a man and they use the restroom that corresponds to that gender identity. That’s kind of step one in being an ally,” says Goss, a transgender woman.

While Goss and Thomson, who identifies as a man, understand that there will be people who will be uncomfortable, they don't view it as a “responsibility” among trans people to accept that fact.

“It’s just an unfortunate reality that the day we live in, people are uncomfortable with the way we are,” Goss says. “That’s why it’s really important for people to understand we’re just trying to live our lives. We’re not asking for special treatment. We just want to be able to go about our everyday lives, just like you and Raven.”

“We’re not getting in anybody’s way or anything,” adds Thomson.

“That’s the problem with this: It singles us out. It takes us and makes us separate,” Goss shares “We just want to go about our everyday lives and be who we are and have people accept us. I can’t do that if I have to go to the men’s room every time I use the bathroom because it’s going to single me out as a person.”

Symone and Aiken, who ran for Congress in North Carolina in 2014, also took to the streets, speaking with one older married couple at a local diner about whether they were for or against the HB2 bill.

Notably, the couple disagreed on the bill’s merits. The husband admitted he’d “walk out” of the bathroom if Caitlyn Jenner walked into the men’s room. “I don’t wanna be in the same restroom as Caitlyn Jenner,” he explained. When Symone asked where Jenner was supposed to go, the husband replied, “That’s Caitlyn’s problem, not mine.”

The wife, a Brit, was on the other end of the spectrum, saying that England “would probably laugh themselves silly” over HB2. “I just think it’s a big nothing,” she said.

The View airs weekdays at 11 a.m. ET/10 a.m. CT.



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