A group of black ex-contestants are joining forces to file a lawsuit against American Idol, saying they were forced off the hit show due to racism.
According to TMZ, NY attorney James H. Freeman, representing nine former Idol contenstants from different seasons, submitted a letter to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission asking for permission to sue Idol and FOX.
The following contestants are represented in the suit: 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).
In the documents, Freeman says he began investigating the show after Jermaine Jones was given the boot last March when show producers alleged they discovered that he had multiple outstanding warrants for his arrest.
Freeman claims he found that producers had only publicly disqualified nine other contestants from the show ever — and that they were all black. Freeman goes on to charge Idol with running a "cruel and inhumane" "scheme" to use black contestants for ratings.
According to the letter, Freeman says the show's background check stage, which asks potential contestants about their arrest history, is a violation of a California employment law that forbids employers from asking job-seekers if they've ever been arrested.
Freeman goes on to claim that the illegally obtained arrest history, supplemented by info from private investigators hired by Idol, was then used to publicly humiliate the black contestants on national TV in order to garner attention — and higher ratings.
Freeman says the incidents made his clients appear to be "violent criminals, liars and sexual deviants," perpetuating "destructive stereotypes" about black people. According to the letter, none of the contestants who were disqualified due to their arrest records were convicted of the crimes they were charged with at the time. "Yet their personal and professional lives," Freeman continues, "remain permanently and severely impaired by [the show's] continuing violations of our nation's laws."
Furthermore, Freeman charges that Idol has "never once publicly disqualified a white or non-black American Idol contestant in the history of the eleven season production."
The letter is the opening shot of a lawsuit, and as soon as the case is approved by the EEOC, Freeman reportedly plans to officially sue the show.
American Idol bigwig Nigel Lythgoe says he's "shocked" by the "ridiculous" allegations.
"We treat everybody the same ... no matter the race, religion or sex," he insists. "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."
FOX has yet to comment on the allegations.
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