July 26, 2013 13:05

Ten American Idol contestants sue the show over racial discrimination claims

Former contestants claim US talent show "perpetuates destructive stereotypes."

Ten American Idol contestants sue the show over racial discrimination claims

Photo: Dean Chalkley

Ten former American Idol contestants are suing the US show once judged by Simon Cowell, claiming racial discrimination.

Entertainment Weekly reports that former contestants Corey Clark, Jaered Andrews, Jacob John Smalley, Donnie Williams, Thomas Daniels, Akron Watson, Ju’Not Joyner, Chris Golightly, and Terrell and Derrell Brittenum's case began in January, when James H. Freeman, the lawyer representing the group, wrote to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on their behalf, complaining that only 10 contestants in the history of the show had been kicked off the show, all of whom are African-American. Freeman claimed that American Idol producers were "cruel and inhumane," and accused the show of perpetuating "destructive stereotypes." Each of the contestants is seeking $25 million in damages.

Of the contestants, only Clark, Smalley, and Joyner made it to the voting rounds of American Idol. Clark appeared on season two of the show but was asked to leave when it was revealed he had been arrested on battery charges earlier that year. Clark later claimed to have had an affair with Idol judge Paula Abdul. The contestants claim that producers of the show went out of their way to question them on their arrest records and backgrounds in an attempt to paint them as "violent criminals, liars, and sexual deviants."

Four of the 12 American Idol winners to date have been either black or mixed race: Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Jordin Sparks, and Candice Glover. Academy Award nominated actress and singer Jennifer Hudson also got her first break on the show.

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