American Idol alum Clay Aiken was bound to deliver a bit of a postmortem in his first big promotion for his new reality show. The reality star and one-time North Carolina congressional candidate, who stars in Esquire’s The Runner-Up this April, lost to Republican Renee Ellmers by 10 points back in November.
The rather dramatic campaign, which saw his democratic opponent Keith Crisco die the night of the primary, is chronicled in the new reality show. And Aiken told reporters at the Television Critics Association winter press tour that he was courted by multiple filmmakers before settling on Jonathan and Simon Chinn for the four-hour series.
Right out the gate, Aiken was asked if he had any regrets about the race — or having it be filmed.
“Obviously, I had hoped to win,” he said. “I had no intention to do anything but run for Congress. What they did with the production was going to be up to them.”
Elaborating on the loss, Aiken seemed conflicted when asked if he thought if running as an openly gay Democrat in a conservative state meant that he never had a chance of winning. “I certainly don’t want to think that,” he said. “It’s a very difficult district. One of the things I hope we’re able to shed some light on is the political climate now, how so many districts in this country are gerrymandered beyond recognition.”
Aiken described North Carolina’s second district as resembling an “amoeba.”
Speaking to the criticism of his campaign, namely the televised remarks of Bill Maher on HBO’s Real Time, Aiken took the remarks in stride — though he did get defensive at the suggestion he didn’t campaign aggressively on gay issues.
“I’m new,” he said, laughing. “This was my first campaign, which is probably pretty evident if you see this. … I didn’t run for congress specifically for gay constituents. To imply, as a gay man, I have to speak to gay issues only or more than anything, would imply that Jewish candidates should only speak to Jewish issues. … Am I a gay man? Yes. Would I like there to be gay marriage around the country? Yes.”
To Maher specifically, Aiken had this to say: “I did not run with Bill Maher as a constituent, so I’m less concerned with his opinion than you think I would be.”
When one reporter brought up the criticism from some Aiken donors who weren’t aware of the reality show filming his campaign, producer Jonathan Chinn jumped in. “Let’s cut Clay a little bit of slack,” said Chinn. “Our cameras were in plain sight. Everyone consented in the way that everyone would in a documentary. There was no deception there.”
Aiken was coy when asked about his future plans, but it seems his Esquire doc will be a one-off.