By LYNN ELBER
LOS ANGELES (AP) — An “America’s Got Talent” singer whose Afghanistan War injury claims have been called into question wouldn’t face vetting by producers unless he made it into the final rounds, according to a person familiar with the production.
Timothy Michael Poe was among about 4,000 people who vied for a spot on the NBC series, which doesn’t scrutinize contestants until they reach the ranks of the top 48, said the person, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly and spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity.
NBC relies on the show’s producers, FremantleMedia North America and Syco Television, to conduct background checks on contestants when the field is narrowed, the person said, which is typical among TV reality series. NBC and the show’s producers have declined all comment on the Poe matter.
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It’s unknown whether Poe, a guitar-strumming country singer, is among the top 48 picked in a Las Vegas audition round in April or if he’s out of the competition. The person would not reveal Poe’s fate on the show, nor would NBC or the show’s producers.
Poe, who was seen on a pre-taped episode Monday of “America’s Got Talent,” was among about 100 acts that the show’s judges sent on to the Las Vegas round. The 48 who made that cut will start competing in live telecasts beginning July 2.
Whatever the Las Vegas outcome was for Poe, it wasn’t affected by questions over his war record that arose this week. The refusal by NBC and others to say whether he’s still a contender allows the drama surrounding him to be milked for a while longer — a potential boon for the top-ranked network series that drew 11.5 million viewers last week.
On Monday’s show, Poe told judges Howie Mandel, Howard Stern and Sharon Osbourne that he spent 14 years in the military and suffered a broken back and brain injury when he was hit by a grenade in Afghanistan in 2009.
“I had volunteered for a team to go out and clear buildings and help out with the wounded,” Poe said during a taped interview on the show. “There was a guy who comes up with a rocket-propelled grenade. I saw it coming down, and by the time I turned and went to jump on top of my guys, I yelled ‘grenade’ and the blast had hit me.”
Poe told the judges that he was from San Antonio, Texas. The TV show listed his age as 35.
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According to military records, Poe served with the Minnesota Army National Guard from December 2002 through May 2011, working as a supply specialist. Records show he was deployed in Kosovo from Oct. 10, 2007 to July 15, 2008, and then served in Afghanistan for about a month in 2009.
“Sgt. Poe’s official military records do not indicate that he was injured by a grenade in combat while serving in Afghanistan in 2009, as he reports,” Lt. Col. Kevin Olson, a spokesman for the Minnesota National Guard, said in a statement.
“We looked very closely at his record,” Olson said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “We did not find something to substantiate what he said.”
Olson’s statement Wednesday also said the Minnesota National Guard had no record of Poe being shot while in Iraq, as a Dallas TV station reported last month in a story that featured Poe.
Efforts to arrange an interview with Poe on Wednesday were not successful.
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