Nigel Lythgoe has stepped down as a judge on So You Think You Can Dance after being slapped with two sexual assault lawsuits, one of which was filed by former American Idol judge Paula Abdul.

Fox announced Nigel as a So You Think You Can Dance judge for Season 18 in December along with Allison Holker and Maksim Chmerkovskiy. The network also revealed So You Think You Can Dance All-Star Comfort Fedoke will be sitting on the panel as a guest judge for the auditions.

But Nigel told Variety in a statement that he'll no longer be appearing on the reality dancing competition's upcoming season, which is set to premiere Monday, March 4 at 9PM ET/PT on Fox.

"I have informed the producers of So You Think You Can Dance of my decision to step back from participating in this year's series," Nigel, 74, said in his statement.

"I did so with a heavy heart but entirely voluntarily because this great program has always been about dance and dancers, and that's where its focus needs to remain. In the meantime, I am dedicating myself to clearing my name and restoring my reputation."

Nigel is the creator and executive producer of So You Think You Can Dance, for which he also served as a judge for every season -- except the show's seventeenth season in 2022 -- since the show's inception in 2005.

According to a source, Sony Pictures Television's 19 Entertainment, which co-produces So You Think You Can Dance, recently opened an investigation of Nigel, Variety reported.

Fox, 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions said in a statement that So You Think You Can Dance will proceed with Season 18 "although without Nigel Lythgoe, to ensure the show remains committed to the contestants, who have worked incredibly hard for the opportunity to compete on our stage."

"No decision has been made as to a replacement judge for this season," the companies added.

Paula, 61, filed the first of two lawsuits against Nigel, alleging sexual misconduct more than a decade ago, in late December.

Paula claimed Nigel had groped her and belittled her on the set of American Idol, for which she served as a judge for the first eight seasons through 2009 and Nigel served as a producer until 2014.

Paula wrote in her lawsuit that Nigel "verbally insulted and belittled" -- including calling her a "has been" when they met to discuss her judging role on the reality singing competition.

Paula also claimed that Nigel sexually assaulted her in a hotel elevator while they were on the road for one of American Idol's audition episodes. The incident allegedly happened during one of Paula's "initial" American Idol seasons.
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Nigel allegedly "shoved" Paula "against the wall" and groped her, according to Paula.

While Paula did not specify the year in which this alleged groping took place, she accused Nigel of additional misconduct in 2014.

Paula claimed she had an encounter with Nigel in his home when they were supposed to discuss professional matters over dinner. According to Paula, Nigel "forced himself on top of" her and "attempted to kiss" her.

Paula alleged in the lawsuit that she had "pushed" Nigel off of her because she "was not interested in his advances and immediately left."

Once Paula left American Idol, she briefly joined So You Think You Can Dance as a guest judge for Season 10 in 2013. She later signed on as a permanent judge for Season 12 and Season 13 in 2015 and 2016.

At some point during Paula's stint on the show, she allegedly witnessed Nigel sexually assault one of her assistants without consent.

The second lawsuit against Nigel was filed on January 2 by two former All American Girl contestants.

The contestants appeared on the reality competition in 2003 hoping to prove they were among the "most well-rounded women" in the nation.

Per the lawsuit, Nigel allegedly drove the contestants to a house in Los Angeles once they wrapped filming the show instead of taking them to a studio to meet up with other people, which had been the original plan.

One of the accusers claimed that Nigel pinned her against a piano and forced his tongue onto her face despite her efforts to escape his grasp.

The accusers also alleged Nigel has groped them on the set of All American Girl and smacked their butts when cameras were still rolling.

While Nigel has yet to formally address the allegations in the second lawsuit, other than to say he's stepping down from So You Think You Can Dance and hopes to clear his name, Nigel released a statement after Paula filed her case against him.

Nigel denied Paula's account of their prior interactions and told Us Weekly in a statement that he was "shocked and saddened" by her accusations.

"For more than two decades, Paula and I have interacted as dear -- and entirely platonic -- friends and colleagues," Nigel stated.

"[In December], however, out of the blue, I learned of these claims in the press and I want to be clear: not only are they false, they are deeply offensive to me and to everything I stand for."

He continued, "While Paula's history of erratic behavior is well known, I can't pretend to understand exactly why she would file a lawsuit that she must know is untrue. But I can promise that I will fight this appalling smear with everything I have."

When So You Think You Can Dance returns to Fox, Cat Deeley will be reprising her role as host.

So You Think You Can Dance will feature an all-new format when it airs its new season.

"Each week, contestants will compete in new, intense dance challenges that will give them a real taste of the career, from performing in a music video or a football halftime show to going toe-to-toe on stage with a Broadway performer," according to Fox.

"In the end, it will be up to the judges to decide their fate."

Eliminations will take place weekly, with the Top 3 finalists competing in the season's finale, which will conclude with one dancer winning the $100,000 grand prize and being named So You Think You Can Dance's champion.

The upcoming So You Think You Can Dance season will also feature new storytelling elements to "further capture the authentic ups and downs experienced by professional dancers."

For the first time in So You Think You Can Dance history, viewers will watch documentary-style footage of the contestants and catch glimpses of what the competition is like for its contestants behind the scenes.

Fans will be able to follow the contestants "as they go through their personal and competitive journeys, including the daily struggles, new relationships, personality clashes and more," according to the network.

And as per usual, there will be "big spectacle" dance numbers that viewers have come to love.

In 2022, ballroom dancer Alexis Warr from Orem, Utah was named the winner of Season 17 of So You Think You Can Dance.

About The Author: Elizabeth Kwiatkowski
Elizabeth Kwiatkowski is Associate Editor of Reality TV World and has been covering the reality TV genre for more than a decade.