Several former contestants are accusing “American Idol” of racism and are planning to sue the Fox reality show.
According to a letter obtained by TMZ, New York attorney James Freeman has contacted the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to request permission to sue Fox and the show on behalf of his clients, nine African-American singers who claim they were disqualified from the show in order to boost ratings.
Freeman alleges that only nine contestants have been officially disqualified from “American Idol” since the show debuted in 2002, and all nine happened to be black.
The lawyer calls it a “cruel and inhumane scheme” to exploit and humiliate black contestants for ratings and perpetuate “destructive stereotypes,” according to TMZ. Freeman alleges producers used information obtained from illegal background checks and arrest inquiries into the contestants’ histories and later used it against them to force them off the show for the drama factor and subsequent ratings boost.
TMZ names the nine disgruntled contestants involved in the accusations as Corey Clark (Season 2), Jaered Andrews (Season 2), Donnie Williams (Season 3), Terrell Brittenum (Season 5), Derrell Brittenum (Season 5), Thomas Daniels (Season 6), Akron Watson (Season 6), Ju’Not Joyner (Season 8) and Chris Golightly (Season 9).
“Idol” producer Nigel Lythgoe told TMZ he was “shocked” by the allegations and called them “ridiculous.”
“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,” Lythgoe told TMZ.
There were at least two non-black contestants that were publicly disqualified from the show, as Zap2it notes, and they were Season 1′s Delano Cagnolatti (for lying about his age) and Season 8′s Joanna Pacitti (for her alleged connections to 19 Entertainment executives).