America’s Got Talent contestant, Timothy Poe, might be a “f-f-f-fraud,” as TMZ put it.
Poe stole the hearts of the judges, producers and viewers across the nation in his audition for the NBC show in Austin. The veteran, who struggled with a stutter, told judges that he was hit by a grenade in 2009 while serving in Afghanistan, which broke his back and damaged his brain, resulting in the speech impediment. In an earlier interview with WFAA, a Dallas TV station, he also told audiences that he “took a bullet in the leg” while serving in Iraq in 2005.
But soon after his story aired last Monday night, fellow soldiers “called his story an outright lie,” reported the San Antonio Express-News. The Minnesota National Guard also released an official statement, saying “Poe went home with an ear problem after just more than a month” in Afghanistan. Lt. Col. Kevin Olson, spokesman for the Guard, also told the paper, “There is no official record that Mr. Poe deployed to Iraq and sustained injuries in combat, as he has reported.”
Poe told TMZ that “the fact that there is no record of the incident is a common problem,” and that he planned to sue the individuals who countered his story. However, he did later tell E! Online, “It may not have happened exactly like I said it did. I really do not remember a lot of things since the accident.”
Though the veteran’s memory on the exact details of his injuries are murky, other holes in his story have become apparent over the last week. Here are a few of them:
1. TMZ reported Thursday that one of the photos in a montage featured on Monday’s America’s Got Talent episode actually pictured another man– Staff Sgt. Norman Bone.
The sergeant, who is currently stationed in El Paso, told TMZ that his ex-wife, who had tuned in to Monday night’s show, was the first to notify him. Then a man who served with Bone in Afghanistan told him to watch the clip via Facebook message.
Bone was less than pleased. The sergeant told TMZ, “I’m absolutely furious. Been seeing red all day.”
Poe’s fiancé, Carrie Morris “confirmed it was lifted straight from a Department of Defense website,” WFAA reported. She told the TV station that Poe sent it because “he was in a rush.”
2. The San Antonio Express-News and the New York Post reported that another photo of Poe suggested he had earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star—when in fact he hadn’t, according to both the Minnesota National Guard and Poe himself.
3. This time ratted out by friends and family, the New York Post reported Friday that the contestant lied to the NBC show’s judges when he told them that “he’d never sung before coming back from Afghanistan.”
He told the Post, “I was in a band, but it was before the accident. And at the time of ‘AGT,’ when the judges asked, before I could even think about answering, my words had already came out.”
4. The New York Post also reported a small fib down in the trenches of Poe’s story—“On the show, Poe said he only discovered he could sing after a speech therapist suggested it could help with his stutter–which also turned out to be a lie.”
The New York Post reported Thursday that Poe was “truly sorry” for the “incomplete facts,” and the veteran continued to offer apologies in a Friday interview with WFAA. Through sobs Poe told WFAA reporter Teresa Woodward he “never meant to hurt anyone” and that he’s sorry. Woodward reported that Poe blames brain injuries–which he said had caused his stutter–for his confusion on the facts.
“I don’t feel like I’ve lied. That’s what’s driving me crazy,” Poe said. “I truly thought this had happened to me.”
WFAA reported that America’s Got Talent producers are deciding whether to edit out some or all of Poe’s camera time. Judges Howard Stern and Howie Mandel have both expressed their anger with the contestant, TMZ reported Friday.
WATCH the clip of Poe’s audition on last Monday’s episode of America’s Got Talent here:
And WATCH Poe’s apology on WFAA here: