Oprah Contestant With Cerebral Palsy Remains On Top Amid Voting Questions
Allegations of vote-rigging are swirling around the top vote-getters in an Oprah Winfrey Network contest including a bid by Zach Anner, who has cerebral palsy.
Anner soared to the top of Winfrey’s Search For The Next TV Star earlier this month, establishing a lead of over 1 million votes with a video entry where he introduces himself as a person with “the sexiest of the palsies” and pitches a travel show “for people who never thought they could travel.”
But on Tuesday another contestant who calls herself “Dr. Phyllis” surged past Anner, gaining 300,000 votes in a mere 20 minutes, according to The Huffington Post, and fueling Internet rumors that the contest was rigged in her favor, perhaps by Oprah herself.
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Since then, Anner has regained the lead, posting more than 8 million votes.
Now, however, some Anner backers are admitting that they used questionable means to cull initial votes for Anner long before he became an Internet sensation earlier this month, with support from the likes of singer John Mayer. In an anonymous email to Geekosystem, a user of an online forum acknowledged employing a computer script to improperly increase votes for Anner.
Representatives from Oprah’s network say that they will investigate any irregularities.
“The online voting rules for the ‘Your OWN Show’ video submission competition were carefully crafted to be fair to everyone. Any allegations of impropriety will be investigated and the appropriate actions taken to keep the process unbiased,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.
For his part, Anner remains humbled by the experience. “I expected my mom and her friends to watch it. That would have been good enough,” he told ABCNews.com. “I try not to watch the vote tallies. If I got caught up in the negative stuff, I couldn’t concentrate on the positive things.”