“American Idol” has more to worry about this season than who the new judge will be. The show is being sued by ten former contestants who say they were eliminated because of their race.
TMZ broke the story in January, which at the time only had nine former contestants banding together to sue the show. At that time, the contestants, all from different seasons, were Jaered Andrews (Season 2), Corey Clark (Season 2), Donnie Williams (Season 3), Derrell Brittenum (Season 5), Terrell Brittenum (Season 5), Thomas Daniels (Season 6), Akron Watson (Season 6), Ju’Not Joyner (Season 8), and Chris Golightly (Season 9). Since this time, Jacob John Smalley of Season 2 has added himself to the suit.
The plaintiff’s are seeking $25 million each, stating the show used them by digging up arrest records which would add drama to the show and boost ratings.
The lawsuit began when New York attorney James H. Freeman noticed something was off when “Idol” contestant Jermaine Jones was kicked off the show because he failed to inform producers about multiple outstanding warrants for his arrest. After an investigation, Freeman found that only nine other people had been publicly disqualified from the show. All of those contestants were also black.
California law states, “Employers cannot ask job applicants to disclose information about arrests or detentions that did not result in a conviction or that resulted in a referral to and participation in a pre- or post-trial diversion program (e.g., a drug treatment program).” And since Freeman’s clients were seeking “employment” in California, the show didn’t have the right to ask about their criminal records.
In addition to the $25 million requested, the former contestants would also like to see “American Idol” adopt new anti-racism regulations.
Season two contestant Corey Clark filed a separate lawsuit earlier this year against Fox, E! Entertainment, and others for alleged defaming comments made about his exit from the show as well as his alleged relationship with Paula Abdul.
Jermaine Jones, the contestant whose departure sparked Freeman’s investigation into the show, isn’t even involved in the lawsuit. He told The Hollywood Reporter he thinks they’re “going a little overboard.”