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Monday, May 13, 2024 | Back issues
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‘American Idol’ Sued for Harassment

(CN) - A gay "American Idol" contestant sued the show's producers, claiming they hired him to play an "extra flamboyant" contestant and abandoned him after making him "the most hated contestant ever," subject to homophobic slurs from producers and stars on the show.

Ian Benardo sued American Idol Productions for employment discrimination in Manhattan Federal Court. It's his third filing; the first two complaints were tossed out because of procedural reasons.

Benardo says he appeared on the show three times: during a paid audition in 2006, in the season finale in 2007, and on a 2010 farewell show for former "Idol" judge Simon Cowell.

Benardo says the producers hired him to portray a stereotype. He says they told him to "gay it up" during a televised 2006 audition in New York and at the 2007 season finale in Los Angeles.

In May 2007, Benardo says, the producers hired him to cross-dress at an "American Idol" event, where other Idol employees called him a "fag" and a "homo," among other things. He says American Idol supervisors "condoned" the harassment.

Then in 2010, Benardo says, the producers asked him to appear on the farewell episode for the show's former judge, Simon Cowell.

Benardo says the producers demanded that he act "outrageous," "extra flamboyant" and "really gay."

Following these instructions, Benardo says, he grabbed a microphone from comedian Dane Cook during the show. Benardo says he told Cowell, "It's all about you," and refused to hand the microphone back.

Afterward, Benardo says, a producer told him he would "shove this mike up your ass, but you would like it."

And, he says, one of Cook's representatives called him a "fucking freakin' faggot."

Benardo claims producers told him he was in danger, and had the show's security guards take him to a hotel and leave him there.

Benardo says he suffered "obscene and sexually demeaning ... harassment and discrimination" because he followed the instructions of his employer.

Benardo filed a complaint with New York's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in July 2010, followed by a federal lawsuit in August. Judge Colleen McMahon granted "American Idol's" motion to dismiss, noting that Benardo never got a right to sue letter from the commission.

In his new complaint, Benardo says he has such a letter.

Benardo seeks punitive damages. He is represented by Matthew Blit.

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