Tabloidy Complaint on 'American Idol' Fiasco
NASHVILLE (CN) - A former "American Idol" contestant claims in court that Fox kicked him off the "scripted" show on a pretext, then defamed him by claiming he is a liar who never had a sexual relationship with former show judge Paula Abdul.
Corey Clark sued E! Entertainment Television, Fox Inc., and two law firms: Gibson Dunn Crutcher, and Morrison & Foerster, in Federal Court.
He alleged libel, false light and invasion of privacy.
Clark claims he was "altogether unwillingly" cast in the 2002 season "as a principal performer to occupy a fictional role, namely, 'American Idol's' premier villain in a scripted television show."
Clark, who calls the entertainment defendants and their corporate parents the "IDOL-RING," claims: "The writers and producers behind IDOL-RING knew exactly when Corey Clark would be publicly disqualified from the 'contest' as well as when plaintiff would be resurrected again as the lover of (former) 'American Idol' judge Paula Abdul. [Parentheses in complaint.]
"The problem is that unlike professional actors who are retained to play the fictional role of a villain for the duration of a scripted series, and who are able to thereafter resume their ordinary lives as upstanding citizens in the community, plaintiff here has been typecast by Idol as the villain for the remainder of his entire real life, and presumably for the lives of his natural-born heirs as well, who shall, in the absence of this court's award of relief, read all about the false and defamatory statements made about plaintiff on the worldwide Internet."
Clark claims that when he auditioned for the show he told a producer about misdemeanor charges pending from his arrest on Oct. 12, 2002. Clark, then 22, says he was babysitting his 15-year-old sister and refused to let her leave their parents' home in Topeka, Kan., and police were called. All the charges against him were dropped on Nov. 18, 2002, according to his 44-page complaint.
When he auditioned, on Nov. 4 that year, Clark says, the charges had not yet been dropped. He says he told an Idol producer about his arrest, and the producer "told plaintiff not to worry about it."
In a section of his lawsuit titled "Abdul Solicits Plaintiff," Clark claims: "Shortly after Clark's performance on December 11, 2002, American Idol Judge Paula Abdul, who was publicly magnetized by what she described as Corey Clark's 'star quality,' initiated communications with plaintiff via her backstage assistant and promptly offered to be his 'special friend.'
"Within hours of first speaking to Abdul on her home telephone, Abdul sent a private car service to pick Corey Clark up and transport him to her home."
According to the complaint, Clark apparently won Abdul's regard in "an unprecedented showing of audacity" when he "kissed Paula Abdul's hand, much to the delight of Abdul," during his audition. He claims he got "high marks" for it, although judge Randy Jackson "critiqued plaintiff for singing off key."
He claims that his audition won him his "'Golden Ticket' to Hollywood" as one of 234 contestants for the show's second season. He says in the complaint that he "was extremely confident in his chances to win the entire contest in season two."
Alas, it was not to be, the complaint states: "(T)wo weeks later, on the eve of his arrival after earning the prized Golden Ticket, the government's charges against plaintiff were mysteriously reinstated and a three-count misdemeanor complaint filed by the Shawnee County Assistant District Attorney on Dec. 4, 2002.
"Upon information and belief, IDOL-RING played a role in the prosecutor's decision to proceed with charges against plaintiff.
"Plaintiff did not learn of the reinstated Kansas charges until on or about Monday, Jan. 6 or Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2003."
He claims that "Upon the advice of his counsel and in order to avoid traveling back to the state of Kansas, plaintiff pled no-contest to one misdemeanor count of obstruction of justice based on resisting arrest."
Clark claims that he went on to become a finalist in the show, but in March 2003, nonparty The Smoking Gun published an article on his arrest, prompting Idol producers to disqualify him, claiming he had not disclosed his criminal history.
He claims that Idol producers told him he might be able to stay on the show "'depending on how much you help us clean this up,'" and then "Fox required plaintiff to do a videotaped interview immediately."
Clark claims he "expressed concern that he should be allowed to speak with an attorney" but was told "there was no time for that and if Corey had any chance of staying on the show, he would need to appear in the videotape."
Clark claims he did that "under duress." He claims he refused to "confess to being a 'liar' for not telling senior producers about the arrest" so it was "suggested that Clark state he was 'guilty' of not telling producers about the arrest." He claims he was "guaranteed" that if he made such a statement he could stay on the show.
But 30 minutes later, he claims, he was told "that senior Fox executives demanded that plaintiff be removed from the show."
Clark claims that The Smoking Gun then announced that he had been kicked of the show, and that "it was quite clear that The Smoking Gun author had a direct line into Fox."
He claims that Abdul cut off communicating with him after he was booted from the show, and that "for almost two years" he "remained quiet about his love affair with Abdul."
He claims he "increasingly found himself 'blacklisted' by music industry professionals" as he tried to get "a Major Label record deal in Los Angeles." He claims that he "ultimately learned that representatives of the 'American Idol' franchise were actively interfering with his efforts to secure contracts."
He says he "eventually succeeded on the strength of his musical talent and natural charisma." But was "(s)still frustrated by the unwarranted interference from 'American Idol' producers, and shunned by his former love interest Abdul, who had promised him substantial moral and financial support in his musical career," so he "resolved in or about December 2004 to 'hold nothing back'" and tell all he knew about the show.
And, he claims: "Clark was further compelled to disclose his relationship by the notion that his 'disqualification' on the basis of his arrest record was mere pretext for his affair with Abdul; he thought at the time  that the reason for his removal was the discovery by senior producers ... of his secret affair with Abdul." (Brackets in complaint.)
He adds: "To date, despite a cryptic press release issued by her representatives, Paula Abdul has never personally made a public statement or utterance in which she expressly denied her mentoring, friendship and/or romantic relationship with Corey Clark during his participation in Season Two of American Idol."
Clark claims that in 2005 Fox had the law firms Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, and Morrison & Foerster initiate a "sham investigative report" that claimed that his intimate relationship with Abdul was fictional, which led to his being "shunned" by the music industry.
As a result, he says: "He was now labeled as 'the guy who fabricated the story about sleeping with a famous judge just to sell a record.'
"In the fall of 2005, plaintiff stated receiving death threats from complete strangers in the streets. Random people spit on him and damned him to hell."
Clark also claims that the allegedly bogus investigation caused his record label to drop him just before his first album was to be released.
Clark claims he tried to sue for defamation, but did not have the money for a lawyer. "In fact, plaintiff began living on food stamps during this time period."
So he decided to kill himself, he says. He tried to hang himself with bedsheets on July 24, 2006, but "whether through luck or diving intervention he was able to survive," according to the complaint.
He says this lawsuit is "a good faith effort to see Truth and Justice, the absence of which shall permanently castigate plaintiff to a Life of Exile and impair the valuable interest in plaintiff's right of publicity."
He claims that "the E! True Hollywood Story: Paula Abdul," published on Jan. 27, 2012, defamed him, or at least "contain(ed) statements concerning plaintiff that are capable of defamatory meaning. The program denies that Abdul had a relationship with Corey Clark during his time on American Idol. ...
"Having omitted the true nature of the relationship between plaintiff and Abdul, defendant's statement unfairly imputes plaintiff as a liar."
Clark seeks an injunction, and compensatory, special, aggravated, exemplary, punitive and general damages.
He is represented by Eugenia Grayer.