Saturday, 2:15 PM
'Survivor' contestant apologizes for deception
On the CBS "Early Show" today, Denise Martin (right) faced her boss, Douglas Schools Superintendent Nancy T. Lane.
By Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
Denise Martin, the former lunch lady who claimed she had been demoted to janitor after appearing on “Survivor: China,” acknowledged today that the hard-luck story she told in the reality show finale was not true.
Martin, who works in an elementary school in Douglas, Mass., appeared on the CBS "Early Show'' in a split screen with Schools Superintendent Nancy T. Lane in a segment dubbed "Survivor Scandal." As her voice cracked, Martin confirmed what Lane told the Globe on Monday -- that she had been promoted to a janitorial position before trying out for the show, a job that came with a $10-an-hour pay raise.
"It was not my intention to be misleading," Martin said from studio in Los Angeles. "Nancy has been outstanding to me. She has done everything possible. She has given me the leave of absences to be on the show."
"I'm sorry," Martin continued, sounding as though she was near tears. "And I apologize to everybody. Believe me, I wish none of this had happened. I couldn't say I’m sorry enough."
During the live broadcast of the show's finale Sunday, Martin told viewers she had been demoted from her $7-an-hour job as a lunch lady because she had become too popular at Douglas Intermediate Elementary School.
"They didn't give me my job back," said Martin, 40, who finished fourth in the reality show and missed the $1 million grand prize. "I'm a janitor now. I clean toilets. I wash the floors in the bathroom. I vacuum the kids' rugs."
The producer of "Survivor" responded on live television by surprising Martin with $50,000 to help "get her life back." The story sparked an avalanche of e-mails to Lane and the Douglas public schools, as thousands of viewers blasted the superintendent for being a "Scrooge" and ruining the country. The superintendent said today she was glad Martin acknowledged the truth.
"What I really want to do is make sure the community has a chance to realize that Denise is sorry," said Lane, who appeared from a television studio in New York City. "It really cast a negative light on the whole experience for the entire community. I feel badly for them."
Then the segment's moderator, Julie Chen, asked another question. "Denise, what about the $50,000 you got for what appeared to be a sob story?"
Martin stammered, but didn’t answer. "It was not in my intention," Martin said. "I had no idea I was going to be awarded that."
With eight seconds left in the segment, Chen pushed harder, asking whether she was going to keep the money. Martin shook her head from side to side but never said yes or no.
"I love my town," Martin said. "I love my community. Nancy does a great job."
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