"America's Got Talent" judge Howie Mandel is as outraged as anyone that Tim Poe, wildly exaggerated his military service and outright lied about being a hero.
"On so many levels it is so irritating," Mandel tells Zap2it. "The truth is, especially at this time in our lives, in this country, I am so thankful for anybody, in any service, for whatever they are doing, and wherever they are stationed. And when he showed up with this story that he never sang before and the stuttering was part of a brain injury, he captured the hearts and minds and ears of all of America. It certainly helped him in this competition.
"Beyond this competition it is so wrong to do," Mandel continues, on a tear. "It is just an out and out lie. I feel violated. Other service people feel violated. He used someone else's picture. That man is angry and he should be angry."
When Poe walked on stage in Monday night's episode of the NBC talent show, he appeared hesitant, shy and stuttered. He explained that he had served in the military for 14 years and was wounded in Afghanistan. Since, reports have surfaced that the photo he showed, supposedly of him at war, was not him. News reports have said Poe did indeed serve, but for nine years, not 14, and that he was never deployed in Afghanistan.
As a tentative Poe talked to the judges, when he started singing a country ballad, he transformed and sang flawlessly. His story and his talent won over the audience and the judges.
By now, however, at least one judge is furious.
"Last week he was publicly praised and honored," Mandel says. "Now he is publicly humiliated and he deserves to be publicly humiliated."
His lies aside, Poe does have a beautiful voice and croons in a slow country drawl. That, says Mandel, is what he should be judged on.
"We should not be judging at all on a back story," he says. "Whatever the judges do will be based on the talent and whatever he does in Vegas."
Mandel received early warnings about Poe.
A consummate social media participant, Mandel always live tweets during broadcasts.
"I like to watch how people are reacting to things," Mandel says. "It is better than watching with your best friend on the couch so people are just flooding in tweets."
And as Poe was performing, the tweets started popping up, warning him: "Check this website. This person is lying!' And you think it is the odd person."
But among those tweets were some from other veterans saying, "I was in his unit."
Mandel knew these had the ring of truth.
"In the immediacy of the social networking I was getting this little bit of chatter and it was so juxtaposed to the initial responses people were having," Mandel says.
Photo/Video credit: NBC
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