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'American Idol' under fire

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'American Idol' under fire

Comments from judges on two episodes prompt complaints

By ANDREW KEEGAN | Jan 24, 3:44 PM

Recent remarks by "American Idol" judges questioning the gender identities of two contestants caused a national gay media watchdog group to ask for a meeting with the show’s producers.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation issued a statement last week following the premiere of Fox’s popular talent hunt show.

"GLAAD is reaching out to the show’s producers to discuss our concerns and the concerns of community members and allies who have contacted us about this matter," Damon Romine, GLAAD’s entertainment media director, said in a Jan. 19 statement.

"The real offense here was in the producers’ decision to add insult to injury by turning a contestant’s gender expression into the butt of a joke," Romine said.

The group declined to discuss what action it is seeking from "American Idol" or offer further comment.

"American Idol" is produced by FremantleMedia, a European company that also produces "Idol" shows for other countries. The company did not return calls or emails for comment.

The incidents occurred during the show’s first two episodes of its new season that aired Jan. 17-18.

Auditioning in Chicago on the show that aired Jan. 17, contestant Charles Berry was ridiculed by judge Simon Crowell, who is known for his biting comments.

But rather than comment on Berry’s singing, Crowell advised, "Shave off your beard and wear a dress. You would be a great female impersonator."

Berry walked out of the audition in tears.

On Jan. 18, this time with auditions in Denver, featured judge Randy Jackson asking contestant Zachary Travis, "Are you a girl?"

Travis, sporting high heels, a blond bob hairstyle and a feminine top, sang "Queen of the Night" by Whitney Houston. He was visibly upset with the comment.

Travis told the judges before singing that people often confuse him for a girl, which he remarked is a reaction that amuses him.

When informed he was not selected to continue, Travis lambasted the show as being "typical America," which he said was racist and prejudiced.

"American Idol" played the theme from the 1992 movie "The Crying Game," which featured a transgender character, as Travis left the audition.

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