Laine Hardy's American Idol Reunion Appearance Still Aired After Arrest, and Fans Have Thoughts

Laine Hardy on American Idol
(Image credit: ABC)

While Katy Perry was serving looks at the Met Gala on the evening of May 2, her normal Monday night gig was having a reunion on ABC. American Idol aired a pre-taped special — “The Great Idol Reunion” — in which alumni were welcomed back for some amazing duets and special surprises, like the return of OG judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul. However, the elephant in the theater was Season 17 winner Laine Hardy, who appeared in the special despite his April 29 arrest. The special was taped prior to knowledge of his legal troubles, and American Idol chose to air the special as-is, confusing fans and eliciting some strong opinions.

An investigation was opened April 7 after Laine Hardy’s ex-girlfriend, a student at Louisiana State University, alerted campus police to a voice-activated audio recorder in her room. Hardy was arrested and charged with interception and disclosure of wire, electronic, or oral communication. If found guilty, he could face a fine of up to $10,000 and/or a prison sentence of two to ten years. On Monday night, however, he was shown back on the Idol stage, singing “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” with fellow Season 17 contestant Laci Kaye Booth. and some Twitter fans did not agree with American Idol’s decision to showcase Hardy:

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Laine Hardy and Laci Kaye Booth’s performance was the first of the night, and despite a banner that noted the episode was pre-recorded, it was pretty cringe-worthy. Katy Perry — dramatically on brand — threw herself on the judges table to fangirl over Hardy, and the awkwardness continued after the performance, as Ryan Seacrest thanked the singers for making American Idol proud. 

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A number of viewers called out Laine Hardy for hypocrisy in the statement he released prior to his arrest in which he requested privacy. This viewer tweeted that American Idol’s inclusion of Hardy was disrespectful to Hardy's ex-girlfriend and others:

You ask for privacy yet your taped appearance is on American Idol tonight? WTF! AI using that taped segment after your arrest is disrespectful to the victim; your ex girlfriend. They should have removed your taped appearance. Shameful, disappointing & triggering to many people.

Many viewers wondered why his appearance wasn’t edited out, or at least addressed in some way. Many thought that simple denoting the episode as previously recorded was not an acceptable explanation for Laine Hardy’s presence on the show:

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Laine Hardy, who won over Idol viewers in 2019 en route to an upset victory over frontrunner Alejandro Aranda, wasn’t without his supporters. A number of fans pointed out that he hasn’t been found guilty of anything yet, and others said to have edited out his duet would have been unfair to Laci Kaye Booth. Some let him know he still had their support in hard times:

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As of this writing, all involved in the show seemed to remain mum on the issue. While American Idol’s official Twitter account shared a number of the performances and retweeted warm sentiments regarding some of the other alumni, nothing was tweeted about the night’s opening number. On the show’s official Instagram page, a photo of just Laci Kaye Booth was shared. Booth, meanwhile, also shared only a photo of only herself, which Idol’s account retweeted:

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It was unfortunate that Laci Kaye Booth was affected by Laine Hardy’s drama. We can only speculate on if the show would have handled the situation differently had the alumni been doing solo performances. American Idol Season 20 returns with live performances to ABC at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 8, with the Top 7. Check out our 2022 TV schedule to see what new and returning shows are premiering soon.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.