“American Idol” winner Taylor Hicks has won the hearts of television viewers and built a large and loyal following. Now, he has caught the eye of President Bush.
The White House announced Friday that Bush will host the Alabama crooner and other finalists from the hugely popular Fox television show in the Oval Office on Friday, when they are scheduled to appear in Washington for a live performance.
The pop singers will visit Bush on the same day the president hosts British Prime Minister Tony Blair for a meeting on fighting in the Middle East, the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, the effort to stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb and the genocide in Darfur.
Hicks won the singing competition that has become television’s top-rated show and a pop-culture phenomenon after viewers cast more than 63 million votes for him in the May season finale -- 4 million more votes than Bush tallied in the 2004 election.
Of course, a viewer can cast more than one ballot on “American Idol.”
Hicks also has a personal connection to the White House. His 9th-grade English teacher at Hoover High School in Birmingham is Laura Bush’s press secretary, Susan Whitson.
The White House has reached out to reality television before. Last year, when the president was criticized for his administration’s initial response to Hurricane Katrina, the first lady made a guest appearance in Biloxi, Miss., for ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” the show in which a deserving family gets a lavish rebuilt home.
The “American Idol” finalists will get a private tour of the White House before their photo session with the president. It was unclear Friday whether runner-up Katharine McPhee would be attending. She has missed recent tour stops because of bronchitis and laryngitis.
This report includes information from the Associated Press.