The good news is that David Archuleta said he didn't let gossip about his father affect his performance on "American Idol."

But that doesn't mean we should let the "American Idol" producers off the hook for their part in a highly destructive sequence of events.

It was hard to avoid the gossip alleging that Jeff Archuleta was some sort of monstrous stage father who made his poor son miserable. Unless you were inside the "American Idol" bubble.

David Archuleta told TV critics he wasn't aware of it until late in the season because he "didn't like to hear anything going on in the news about me, good or bad. Just because I didn't want to distract me or let it go to my head or anything like that.

"I just wanted to stay myself and how I was at the beginning of the competition before all this happened. I wanted to keep who I was — the normal, teenage David."

But, after a while, it was unavoidable and "kind of strange because they were really weird things."

He again refuted stories that his father refused to give him water and made him cry during rehearsals.

"I mean, I'm 17. If I want water, I'm pretty sure I would just go get it," he said. "I'm old enough to have enough control over myself."

Gossip aside, here are the pertinent facts:

First, all of the so-called stories about Jeff Archuleta came from anonymous sources. Not one soul was willing to go on the record.

Second, David Archuleta — who was in the best position to know the facts — said all the gossip about his father was false.

"He's a great guy. There isn't really anything he's done that's bad like the things that have been spoken about him," David said. "My whole family has been such a great support, and they're the ones who've kept me grounded and allowed me to be who I am today.

"No one understands what I'm here for more than they do. They get what I love about music and how it's changed my life. They've witnessed what it's done for me, and so they understand what I want to do while I'm here."

While "Idol" producers never confirmed the stories, they never denied them, either. And that was clearly because they were hoping the publicity would help the show regain some of its lost ratings.

In other words, they hung Jeff Archuleta out to dry. And affected 17-year-old David Archuleta toward the end of the season as well.

It's not like they haven't done it before. Just this season, the producers could easily have saved judge Paula Abdul much public embarrassment, but they didn't. Again, to help ratings.

When Abdul talked about a song Jason Castro hadn't sung on air yet, it was because she had already seen him perform it during the dress rehearsal. That's standard procedure for the show.

And then a last-minute change made by producers left Abdul flustered, confused and looking like she was a bit insane.

She's obviously not the sharpest tool in the shed, but it was an easily explainable mistake. But no explanation was forthcoming from the producers because it was free publicity for the show.

If they'd do that to a member of their "family," what wouldn't they do to the father of one of the contestants?

For the umpteenth time, let me remind you that TV is a business. It's all about getting ratings no matter how you get them.

It's reprehensible, but it's TV.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com