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Paula Abdul Files Lawsuit Against 'American Idol' Producer Nigel Lythgoe Alleging Sexual Assault

Published December 31, 2023
7 months ago

In a groundbreaking lawsuit that surfaces longstanding allegations within the television industry, Paula Abdul, the renowned singer, choreographer, and former judge on reality TV competitions, has brought legal action against Nigel Lythgoe, executive producer of "American Idol" and "So You Think You Can Dance." This suit, filed on Friday, places Abdul at the center of a grave narrative of alleged sexual assault, workplace harassment, and industry-wide discrimination.

During her tenure as a judge on the early seasons of "American Idol," Abdul states in her complaint, she endured two sexual assaults by Lythgoe. The first incident, as described in the lawsuit, occurred in an elevator where Lythgoe allegedly forced himself upon her, engaging in non-consensual groping and kissing.

The second incident purportedly happened years later after Abdul had transitioned to being a judge on "So You Think You Can Dance." In an instance she considered to be a professional meeting at Lythgoe's residence, Abdul alleges he overpowered her on his couch, again attempting to kiss her and suggesting they form a "power couple."

Abdul's suit covers more than the assaults; it delves into issues of verbal abuse, unequal pay relative to her male counterparts, and the deliberate portrayal of her in an unflattering light on "American Idol." She also shares witnessing Lythgoe sexually assaulting her assistant in April 2015.

Owing to the power dynamics and the considerable influence Lythgoe wielded in the industry, Abdul claims she was compelled into silence. The fear of career reprisals and industry blackballing, a culture that she alleges protects powerful men while stifling survivors of assault, contributed to her years of silence.

In an eerie twist, Abdul reveals a call from Lythgoe years later seemingly taunting her on the expiry of the statute of limitations for sexual assault charges. Despite such limitations, Abdul has been able to file her lawsuit under the recently enacted Sexual Abuse and Cover-Up Accountability Act in California, which offers a one-year window to raise such claims that would typically be barred by time constraints.

Her legal action further targets the entities behind the scenes: 19 Entertainment, FremantleMedia North America, American Idol Productions, and Dance Nation Productions, accusing them of a failure to appropriately sanction Lythgoe and for fostering an environment that facilitates impunity for such alleged misconduct.

This lawsuit arrives amid the broader #MeToo movement, challenging the sustained patterns of sexual misconduct and gender discrimination within various sectors, particularly in media and entertainment. Abdul's case may emerge as a pivotal moment for others who have suffered in silence to find their voice and seek justice.

While Abdul is known for her pop music hits and high-profile roles as a TV personality, her lawsuit is a somber reminder of the potential costs of fame and the dark undercurrents in the glittering world of show business. As the public and legal system grapple with these serious allegations, the industry is prompted to reflect on its practices and the safeguarding of individuals against abuse and discrimination.

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