LOS ANGELES "American Idol" producers are shrugging off the latest sex scandal to hit the top-rated U.S. television show, saying contestant David Hernandez can stay in the competition despite his past as a stripper.
"We've had strippers on the show before," executive producer Ken Warwick was quoted on Tuesday as telling the Web site TVGuide.com. "We're never judgmental about people who do things like that.
"If it were some sort of heavy porn, then maybe we'd have to take action. But certainly not on this."
Warwick's comments came as media reports surfaced that Hernandez, 24, had worked as an adult entertainer at a Phoenix strip club where he appeared nude and performed lap dances for a mostly male clientele.
The Fox network, which broadcasts "Idol," declined to comment on the matter. But sources close to the show said Hernandez would remain in the competition until, or unless, he gets voted off by fans.
He was one of eight male contestants to perform on Tuesday's broadcast, two days before the current assembly of 16 semi-finalists is winnowed to 12. He advanced to the current round last week after winning glowing praise from all three judges with his performance of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone."
The circumstances surrounding Hernandez are reminiscent of a scandal in 2003 when contestant Frenchie Davis, whose powerhouse vocals dazzled the judges, was dismissed from the show following the discovery that she had posed topless on a pornographic Web site.
"Idol" producers felt Davis' case crossed a line because she had appeared on a site that purported to feature sexually explicit photos of underage girls, said a person close to the show who was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.
Last year, another female contestant, Antonella Barba, created a stir after several racy photos of her showed up on the Internet. She was allowed to remain on the show but was voted out by fans.
In 2005, the show was rocked by claims of former contestant Corey Clark that he had engaged in a sexual relationship with celebrity judge Paula Abdul two years earlier. An internal inquiry by Fox found no evidence to support his allegations.