Class Accuses ‘American Idol’ of Racial Bias

     MANHATTAN (CN) – “American Idol” singles out black contestants for humiliation by disqualifying them publicly in promotions, 10 former contestants claim in a federal class action.
     Lead plaintiff Jaered N. Andrews sued American Idol Productions and its producers, sponsors and network associates, alleging employment discrimination and interference with prize contracts.
     Among the many defendants are Freemantle N.A., Fox Broadcasting, Ford Motors, Coca-Cola, AT&T, and Nigel Lythgoe.
     In the 434-page lawsuit, Andrews claims that high-ranking black contestants have been booted off the show for being witness to a murder, for admitting having taken taking topless photos that can no longer be found, and for having an arrest record. But white contestants in similar circumstances were allowed to continue competing, and received support.
     “Over the course of the show’s eleven year history, the adverse action of being ‘officially disqualified’ from American Idol was reserved exclusively for black contestants, and more specifically, black male contestants,” the lawsuit states, in its 1,747th paragraph.
     “As a statistical matter, the severe disparity between 15 publicized disqualifications of black American Idol contestants vs. 0 publicized disqualifications of white (or non-black) American Idol contestants would be highly significant even if the contestant pool were divided down the middle at 50/50. But black contestants only comprised about 28 percent of the contestant pool. There can only be one explanation for this glaring disparity in the actual numbers of black vs. white disqualifications: race.”
     The class claims the defendants “engaged in a conscious effort to perpetuate false stereotypes about African-Americans.”
     For example, “From April 2002 through at least Jan. 25, 2013, Enterprise Defendants engaged in an unlawful policy or practice of utilizing the criminal arrest information (and other confidential information) obtained form contestant background checks as a form of commercial advertising or promotional technique to draw audiences for the American Idol television program.
     “From April 2002 through March 2012, it was the standard operating procedure for Enterprise Defendants to only publish condemn top-ranking black American Idol contestants.
     “Enterprise Defendants engaged in an unlawful policy of humiliating black American Idol contestants through the dissemination of their confidential data to media outlets,” the complaint states.
     The complaint classifies the defendants into four divisions, Production-, Network-, Overseer-, and Sponsor-Defendants. Enterprise Defendants include Production, Network and Overseer defendants.
     The plaintiffs are Jaered Andrews, Cory Clark, Donnie Williams, Terrell Brittenum, Derrell Brittenum, Thomas Daniels, Akron Watson, Chris Golightly, Jacob John Smalley and Ju’Not Joyner.
     The defendants are sued FremantleMedia NA Inc., American Idol Productions Inc., 19 Entertainment Ltd., Core Media Group Inc., 21st Century Fox Inc., Fox Broadcasting Company Inc., Ford Motor Co. Inc.; Coca-Cola Company Inc., AT&T; Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick.
     The class seeks $250 million.
     They are represented James Freeman.

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