'American Idol' reportedly being sued by nine former contestants alleging racism
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 01/25/2013
American Idol will apparently soon have a new lawsuit on its hands.
Nine former American Idol contestants, who all happen to be black and competed on various seasons of the reality singing competition, are joining forces to sue the show, alleging they were all kicked off Idol due to a racist ploy to increase ratings, TMZ reported.
The nine men reportedly suing American Idol are Chris Golightly, Ju'Not Joyner, Thomas Daniels, Akron Watson, Terrell Brittenum, Derrell Brittenum, Donnie Williams, Jaered Andrews, and Corey Clark.
The group reportedly sent a letter to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission via New York attorney James H. Freeman, who is requesting permission to file a lawsuit againstAmerican Idol on behalf of his clients.
Freeman reportedly pointed out in the letter that he had conducted an investigation of the show's history since its first season aired back in 2002 and discovered a trend in which Idol producers have disqualified a total of nine people from the show who are all black.
Also in his letter, Freeman noted the pattern became especially noticeable once eleventh-season Idol contestant Jermaine Joneswas booted from the show in March of last year for allegedly failing to disclose past criminal charges to Idol producers, which included multiple outstanding warrants out for his arrest.
On behalf of the nine men, Freeman is accusing American Idol of conducting a "cruel and inhumane" plot to exploit and embarrass black contestants for entertainment gain, according to TMZ.
In turn, Freeman is reportedly claiming the show's actions against his black clients have recycled "destructive stereotypes" and unjustifiably suggested the men are "violent criminals, liars and sexual deviants." TMZ reported Freeman does not believe the contestants were actually kicked off the show due to their criminal backgrounds although that's what show producers alleged.
"Yet their personal and professional lives remain permanently and severely impaired by [the show's] continuing violations of our nation's laws," Freeman wrote in the letter, according to the website.
Despite Freeman's claim that American Idol has "NEVER once publicly disqualified a white or non-black American Idol contestant in the history of the eleven season production," the show most certainly has.
In the history of American Idol, there have been 13 total disqualifications, and one of them happened to be a young white female named Joanna Pacitti. Pacitti was disqualified from Idol's eighth season after making it to the Top 36 because she allegedly had a connection with two executives affiliated with one of the show's production companies at the time.
Regardless of the error in Freeman's letter, the attorney is also stating that each Idol season starts with a background check in which the contestants must address whether they've ever been arrested. Freeman is allegedly insisting the annual "scheme" is a violation of California employment law, because people applying for a job should not be asked such questions and Idol is essentially hiring employees.
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If Freeman is given the okay from the EEOC, he will reportedly file lawsuit documents in court.
When TMZ contacted American Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe about the matter, he argued, "We treat everybody the same... no matter the race, religion or sex... I think we've always had a fantastic share of talent from contestants both black and white... I don't think I've ever seen racism at the show."
While a representative for Fox declined comment, Lythgoe added he was "shocked" about the news and found the accusations "ridiculous."
Golightly was disqualified from Idol's ninth season for allegedly being in a recording contract at the time of his original audition. He later attributed his show departure to a "bogus old contract." Joyner made it the eighth season's Final 36 but was allegedly cut from the show due to his concerns over his contract at the time.
Idol's sixth season disqualified Daniels because he had a criminal past he allegedly didn't disclose to producers. Watson was let go from Idol's sixth season as well. He was arrested in April 2003 for misdemeanor possession of marijuana -- the only thing that would seem to explain why he was uninvited from the show's Hollywood Round.
Terrell Brittenum was disqualified from American Idol's fifth season, along with his twin brother Derrell Brittenum. They had advanced through the Hollywood Round but were subsequently kicked off the show once their legal troubles came to light. They were previously arrested and charged with allegedly using false identification to purchase their car.
Idol's third season featured Williams' disqualification. He became a Top 32 finalist but was given the boot after he got arrested on his way home from a party for allegedly driving under the influence. Andrews was disqualified from the show's second season due to an assault charge in which he allegedly helped beat someone to death. Clark was given the boot from the same season because of undisclosed battery charges.
In addition to the nine males attempting to sueAmerican Idol, the other disqualified contestants throughout the franchise's eleven seasons were first-season contestant Delano Cagnolatti -- who allegedly lied about his age and was older than 24, which was the maximum age allowed at the time -- and second-season contestant Frenchie Davis -- who was disqualified after topless photos of her circulated around the Internet. They join previously mentioned Pacitti and Jones.