Nine former “American Idol” contestants, all of whom are black and from various seasons, have joined forces to sue the show. They claim that they were forced off the show as part of an illegal and racist plot to increase the ratings, according to TMZ.
A letter sent to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was obtained by TMZ. The letter was submitted by New York attorney James H. Freeman. He asks for permission to sue the show and Fox for his clients. Freeman has to file with the EEOC before he files the lawsuit.
The former contestants include the following nine:
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 and Chris Golightly (Season 9).
Freeman notes in the letter that he thought something was wrong when Jermaine Jones was removed from the show on March 15, 2012. Jones was kicked off the show because he did not tell producers about multiple outstanding warrants for his arrest. Freeman conducted some research and found that the producers publicly disqualified nine others from the show since it began airing. All nine disqualified contestants are black.
In the letter, Freeman claims that the show has been running a “cruel and inhumane” plot to humiliate black contestants for ratings. Freeman says that the plot happens each season during the background check portion of the show. Producers ask possible contestants the following:
“Have you ever been arrested?”
Freeman says that the question violates California employment law and since the contestants were applying for ‘employment’ with the show, the show is forbidden from asking contestants about their arrest history.
Freeman said that arrest info found by private investigators hired by the show are used to humiliate the contestants on national television. He also said that the show made his clients seem to be “violent criminals, liars and sexual deviants.” Freeman also said that the show “NEVER once publicly disqualified a white or non-black American Idol contestant in the history of the eleven season production.”
The lawyer also notes that none of the disqualified contestants were ever convicted of the crimes they were charged with that led to their removal from the show.
“Yet their personal and professional lives remain permanently and severely impaired by [the show's] continuing violations of our nation’s laws.”
Nigel Lythgoe, a top exec with the show, said he was ‘shocked’ by the ‘ridiculous’ claims. “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.”
The show has seen three African-Americans win in its history. They are Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, and Jordin Sparks.