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'American Idol' producer says calling the show racist is "idiotic"

By Christopher Rocchio, 03/27/2007 

Of all the words critics could use to describe American Idol, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said racist isn't one of them.

"We still hear people calling us a racist show.  I think it's so idiotic... such a stupid statement," Lythgoe told reporters during a Monday conference call.

In early March, The View co-host Rosie O'Donnell accused Idol of being both "racist" and "weightest" based on the show's 2003 decision to disqualify second season semifinalist Frenchie Davis but allow sixth season semifinalist Antonella Barba to remain.

Davis was disqualified from Idol 2 over nude pictures she posed for at the age of 18, in which she simulated solitary sexual activity for a kiddie-porn website.  However Idol producers decided to not disqualify sixth season semifinalist Antonella Barba despite the emergence of numerous provocative photos of the 20-year-old Point Pleasant, NJ native -- a decision Davis and some civil rights activists have suggested might be racially motivated.  Barba was eliminated from Idol by viewer votes when the Top 12 were revealed.

"[Calling Idol racist is] an idiotic statement, and it's so easily disproved," said Lythgoe.  "You can see by the show itself we're not racist."

Two of Idol's first three winners -- Season Two champ Ruben Studdard and Season Three winner Fantasia Barrino -- were both African-American.  Since Idol premiered in 2002, the series has had 70 finalists, 25 of which were African-American.

If people out there still think Idol is racist, Lythgoe gave a reminder that the show's producers and judges aren't the ones responsible for voting.

"It isn't down to the show at this point.  It's down to America," he said.

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