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Kenny Crookston, Associated Press
Jeff Archuleta points to his son, David, before the "American Idol" finalist performed at Murray High during a trip home on May 9.

The next time I hear somebody say that David Archuleta is somehow practicing false humility, I'm going to scream.

Anyone who makes such a pronouncement is telling us more about himself than he is about the 17-year-old Utahn who, improbably enough, is one of the final two in this year's "American Idol" competition.

The kid is for real. And not just a real talent, but a real nice teenager who is clearly and genuinely touched — even overwhelmed — by his newfound fame and his newfound following.

I happened to be standing just a few feet away from Archuleta when he made an appearance at The Gateway during his triumphant return to Utah on May 9. I saw his face as he surveyed the screaming fans; I heard his voice start to break as he tried to thank them.

I saw him turn his back to the fans to try to hide the tears that welled up in his eyes because he was so overcome with emotion.

It was as genuine a moment as you'll ever see.

I don't pretend for a moment to know Archuleta; I've spoken only a few words to him. But there was no way you could observe him from that vantage point and not be convinced that what you see is who he is.

And, quite honestly, I'm about the last person you'd ever expect to be sucked in by something like this. Being cynical is a big part of my job. And, yes, a big part of my personality makeup.

When Mira Sorvino won her best-supporting actress Oscar back in 1996, much of America was charmed by the tears and emotion displayed by both Mira and her father. Paul Sorvino was blubbering away in the front row as she accepted the award and thanked him.

It was a lovely moment — but in the back of my mind, I was thinking, "They're actors. And maybe they're acting right now."

OK, it was closer to the front of my mind than the back.

It's easy to be cynical about show business because so many of the people in show business are so cynical. Which is why it's so completely refreshing to see someone like Archuleta do as well as he has.

But an awful lot of cynics see cynicism in everyone else, whether it's there or not. Which is why so many people seem to have so much trouble believing their eyes when they look at Archuleta.

Or maybe it's that cynics think that being humble, awkward and genuine is dull. Doesn't make for good blogs.

"People don't like nice people. Plain and simple," said Carmen Rasmusen, the second-season "American Idol" finalist who's been writing a column about the show for the Deseret News. "They don't like people who are sincere. They don't like people who are humble.

"They like people who maybe act sincere and act humble, but someone who is honestly, truly that way, like David Archuleta — it's not interesting to them. So what can they do? Let's start some controversy."

And, thus, the stories about how his humility is false. His humble attitude is feigned. Because, gee, nobody could really be that nice, could they?

"People love to criticize," Rasmusen said. "And it's so sad that they pick on this sweet, innocent, 17-year-old boy because he's just doing the best he can."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

· · · · ·

Speaking of things that make me want to scream, how about all the completely unsubstantiated stories alleging that David Archuleta's father, Jeff, is some kind of monster stage parent?

Even alleged "real" newscasters such as Meredith Vieira and Larry King talk about this stuff like it's established fact. And there has not, to my knowledge, been one story making such allegations that quotes anything other than an "anonymous" source.

That's not just bad journalism, that's appalling behavior.

It's also proof that if you say something often enough, people will believe it.

Adding to my skepticism is that so much of this "reporting" comes from TMZ.com. And, close to home, we've seen TMZ.com publish two stories about our own Carmen Rasmusen that were blatant lies.

Let's be absolutely clear about something: David Archuleta is 17 years old, and he has to have a parent or guardian with him. If "American Idol" wants to lock out parents, raise the minimum age for contestants to 18.

(But, in a season when ratings are down, maybe the thinking is that it doesn't hurt to have this kind of controversy — real or imagined.)

As the parent of two 17-year-olds myself, I can't help but think that any parent in Jeff Archuleta's position would do everything he could to protect his child. No matter what it cost him.

We've all done it. But most of us don't have a 17-year-old who's being watched by tens of millions of TV viewers every week.

Kristyn Osborn of SHeDAISY said she believes the media are "making things bigger than they are. They're trying to find things that aren't there."

"Jeff Archuleta is just being a father. We have a father, too, and he does the best he can do," she said.

Rasmusen recalled that, just a year ago, her mother was traveling with her, and when a radio deejay gave Carmen a big compliment, her mom jumped up and hugged him. Which some might interpret as some sort of stage-mom behavior.

"But she's my mom ... and she's so happy for me, she just kind of acted on instinct," Rasmusen said. "I think David's dad does that, and then people jump on him."

But that's what a parent is.

"They're with you their whole life. They're supporting you. They're paying for you to do all these things," said Rasmusen, who was also 17 when she was on "Idol." "And then for someone to be, like, 'You're too involved,' well (Jeff) should be involved. David is underage. Legally, he has to have his dad with him.

"And you can't go through something like this on your own. It's just too big and too hard. You need your family there."


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com