Most of our Villains of the Week have a fairly sketchy reputation even prior to winning the honor, but our latest recipient was being hailed as an inspirational American hero as recently as Wednesday. What went so wrong so quickly for American Idol contestant Matt Farmer?
Farmer was seen on Wednesday’s edition of Idol, auditioning in Long Beach. The 26-year-old veteran told a pretty incredible story, saying he had suffered a traumatic brain injury after an IED explosion in Iraq. As the story went, he had been told that the drugs he had to take for the head injury would make him sterile, but six months after he arrived home, his wife had become pregnant. To make the audition tableau complete, Farmer’s 3-year-old daughter Cadence joined him in the audition, standing by shyly while Daddy sang “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
A change sure did come to Farmer’s hero status within hours, because soldiers he had served with began coming forward to challenge his version of events. Farmer did serve in Iraq, and deserves his fair measure of thanks for that. But he lied about having been wounded, and the medical crisis he faced overseas was actually somewhat embarrassing – not as bad as VD, but close enough.
The website Guardianofvalor.com, which keeps track of false claims of military service, honors, medals etc., began collecting unsolicited comments from Farmer’s former colleagues (the site compared him to Timothy Poe, the 2012 America’s Got Talent contestant involved in a very similar controversy). A man who said he had been Farmer’s roommate in Iraq claimed that the future Idol wannabe wound up in the hospital because he had gotten drunk while taking the anti-acne medication Accutane. “He was never involved in one single direct fire engagement, was never wounded, and made up this whole lie to try and make his story sound good to American Idol,” he told the site.
There are slight variations in the stories told to Guardian of Valor, but all agree on the two key points that 1) Farmer was never wounded and that 2) his only medical crisis involved mixing Accutane and booze. His possession of alcohol was apparently a real issue for his superiors, which may be why he made such a negative impression on his fellow soldiers in such a short time. “His actions endangered the rest of his platoon and company and forced the rest of the company to be searched in what is called a ‘health and welfare’ for illegal substances,” said Sgt. David Johnson.
Farmer quickly responded to the Guardian of Valor charges, admitting that he had overdosed and had been later diagnosed with PTSD, but denying that he had been drummed out of the service. He also insinuated that Idol had taken stock photos and bits and pieces of information, particularly his mention of an “accident,” and used that to create his sob story – even though he was clearly heard telling his interviewer that his vehicle had struck a roadside bomb.
But after Guardian of Valor turned up audio footage of Farmer talking to his church about having served as a sniper in Afghanistan – he was never a sniper and never in Afghanistan – he decided to finally come completely clean, we think. “Everything you have read is correct. It was ALL lies. I in fact HAVE lied since a younger age and had a problem with it … my road to figuring out how to make a life built on trust starts now,” he told the site. He added that he is no longer part of Idol, though since the show has had no comment on the controversy, we can assume he was cut as part of the normal Hollywood week attrition, and not kicked off due to the lies.
We typically don’t give out Villain of the Week based on things we haven’t seen on television, but this news requires an exception. Anyone whose family has been touched by war will understand why what Farmer did really can’t be excused.