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Last Updated: Friday, 30 March 2007, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Campaign backs US Idol's 'worst'
Sanjaya Malakar
Malakar sported an outlandish hairstyle for his last performance
An American Idol contestant consistently criticised by the show's judges is being backed to win by a "vote for the worst" campaign.

Top US radio presenter Howard Stern is backing the campaign, spearheaded by the Vote for the Worst website, urging people to vote for Sanjaya Malakar.

British judge Simon Cowell has joked that he will quit if Malakar wins.

Malakar, 17, is one of the final nine contestants in the singing competition, watched by up to 37 million US viewers.

On the last elimination show, Cowell told the Washington state teenager: "I don't think it matters any more what we say, I genuinely don't.

"I think you're in your own universe and if people like you, good luck."

The sixth series of American Idol reaches its climax in May, with the winner landing a recording contract.

'Karaoke contest'

The Vote for the Worst website, which launched in 2004, calls the programme "America's Largest Karaoke Contest".

Its stated aim is to encourage people "to have fun with American Idol and embrace its suckiness by voting for the people who the general public and the producers are rooting against".

Vote for the Worst's claimed "victories" include Taylor Hicks, who won the last series of American Idol.

At his first audition, Hicks had been told by Cowell that he had no chance of success.

American Idol has been a hit with audiences since the first series in 2002 launched the career of Kelly Clarkson, who has gone on to achieve multi-platinum album sales and Grammy awards.

Jennifer Hudson, a finalist in the 2004 series, won an Oscar last month for her performance in the film musical Dreamgirls.

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