‘Idol’ Producers Fight Back Against Lawsuit

Nov 26, 2013  •  Post A Comment

The producers of the Fox singing competition "American Idol" fought back in court over a lawsuit against the show, filing a motion to dismiss the racial discrimination suit and arguing that its claims of racism can’t, in their words, "be reconciled with reality," The Hollywood Reporter’s Hollywood, Esq., reports.

The suit was filed in July by 10 former contestants on the show and touched on "such diverse topics as civil rights laws, unconscionable release forms, criminal background checks and a supposedly rigged TV contest." THR reports. "But at its heart, the lawsuit aimed to show that by disqualifying many African-American contestants through the years, the popular TV show was oppressive."

The defendants, including Fremantlemedia, Fox Broadcasting, former executive producer Nigel Lythgoe and various corporate sponsors, replied to the accusations Monday.

In the motion to dismiss, the defendants’ lawyers say: "By their own allegations, from the show’s inception, approximately one-third of the ‘Golden Ticket’ winners (who advance beyond the open auditions and travel to Hollywood) have been African American. Plaintiffs also allege that approximately one-third of ‘American Idol’s’ semi-finalists have been African American. During the show’s twelve seasons, four of the winners have been African American. African Americans thus have participated in key stages of the contest at more than double their proportion of the country’s population."

THR adds: "Of course, as we originally pointed out when the lawsuit was filed, the plaintiffs aren’t so concerned with successful outcomes, but rather the disqualifications, or unsuccessful outcomes. The ex-contestants including Jaered Andrews, Corey Clark and Chris Golightly contend that the producers unfairly exploited criminal ‘rap sheets’ and with thin evidence about their crimes and to their own advantage, precluded them from having a fair shot at being victorious on ‘American Idol.’"

The defendants’ motion challenges the timing of the suit, saying: "The ten plaintiffs in this lawsuit are former ‘American Idol’ contestants who were eliminated from the show, either by public vote or through disqualification, as long as ten years ago. Long after the statutes of limitations have expired for all but one plaintiff, they now ask the Court to revisit their eliminations."

The motion also makes a free speech argument, THR notes. The motion says: "As plaintiffs’ complaint acknowledges, the show dramatizes the lives of the contestants, telling their back stories, personal struggles, and ambitions. As an expressive work, ‘American Idol’ is entitled to the First Amendment’s full protection."

Please click on the link near the top of this story for additional arguments in the THR report.

nigel lythgoe.pngNigel Lythgoe

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