LAST EDITED ON 01-20-03 AT 12:53 PM (EST)
Berman fueled the speculation by becoming guarded when asked whether she anticipated backlash, should it turn out Marriott has family money.
"We have told you that we took a man who made a modest living and we dressed him up and we "Pygmalion"-ized him and said that he had $50 million. We kept saying that that's what we've done.
"We have presented our millionaire -- or the individual we dressed up as a millionaire -- accurately," she continued. "What we presented to the American public in our promos is accurate. We are not lying to them."
Asked if she was talking about his net worth in any way, shape or form, she replied, "No, I'm not."
"Can you help us do this math?" One cynical critic asked. "Some of us have been struggling to figure out how you could be working in construction for so many years and be making $8 an hour."
"Well, I can set the record straight pretty easily," Marriott replied slow and easy. "I don't know if you remember last year, a little thing called September 11th, where the economy took a dive and Evan didn't work for half a year. So if there is any question as to whether Evan was in construction, all you have to do is drive over to the Pasadena Union Hall. I'd love to call over there and tell them that whoever wants those records can have them. I made, and I'll tell you -- it's nobody's business but to set the record straight -- I made $29.54 an hour.
"A lot of the reason I did the show is I had such a bad year financially. I couldn't afford a bed."
Marriott says his parents are comfortable but not extremely affluent and that his father worked two jobs, as a banker and teacher, and was a Marine Corps reservist.
"We weren't living in poverty, but my parents struggled to make sure my sister and I had nice things," he explained. Another cynical critic wanted to know: "Why did you do the now-infamous underwear ads?" "Because my mother has seen me in my birthday suit. I didn't think she'd really care," Marriott replied.