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Racism? American Idol Lawsuit Offends Former Black Contestant

Are Blacks Being Exploited on American Idol?Nine Black former American Idol contestants have accused the show of racism and plan to file a discrimination lawsuit against American Idol. They claim the show tried to improve its ratings by exploiting Blacks. But it seems that these Idol outcasts may have inadvertently exploited one of their own: Jermaine Jones, a former contestant who was disqualified from the show in March 2012, says he’s “offended” his name publicly has been tied to the lawsuit.

New York attorney James H. Freeman submitted a formal letter to the EEOC last week requesting permission to sue both American Idol and Fox on behalf of nine Black menCorey Clark (Season 2), Jaered Andrews (Season 2), Donnie Williams (Season 3), Terrell Brittenum (Season 5), Derrell Brittenum (Season 5), Thomas Daniels (Season 6), Akron Watson (Season 6), Ju’Not Joyner (Season 8) and Chris Golightly (Season 9). Jones’ name—and elimination—was included in that letter without his permission or involvement in the discrimination lawsuit.

“I am offended they tried to paint me as a victim of discrimination. I appreciate the experience from Idol and embraced the good and bad from it,” says Jones. “I have moved on with my life … and have not authorized them to include me in the accusations.”

American Idol Racist?

The nine Black complainants all had been contestants on American Idol at some point throughout the show’s previous 11 seasons—and all were booted from the competition because of background checks, arrest records, information obtained by American Idol’s private investigators, etc. For example, Clark was disqualified in 2003 after Idol producers uncovered a previous arrest for allegedly assaulting his sister; or Jones, who was tossed in 2012 because he had multiple outstanding warrants.

The unusually high number of Black men disqualified from the show, Freeman claims, serves to continue a trend of “destructive stereotypes” against Blacks. He also says that the show made his clients appear to be “violent criminals, liars and sexual deviants.”

A Black woman, Frenchie Davis (Season 2), also was removed from the show, when producers learned that she had posed for nude photos four years earlier. Idol has disqualified one white woman: Season 8’s Joanna Pacitti, when it was revealed that she had close ties with two executives at the company that produces Idol.

Ruben Studdard, winner, American Idol (Season 2)
Ruben Studdard, winner, American Idol (Season 2)
American Idol Ruben Studdard Performs Live
Fantasia Barrino, winner, American Idol (Season 3)
Fantasia Barrino, winner, American Idol (Season 3)
Fantasia Barrino Sings “I Believe” After American Idol Win
Jordin Sparks, winner, American Idol, Season 6
Jordin Sparks, winner, American Idol, Season 6
American Idol Winner Jordin Sparks Sings “This Is My Now”
Vonzell Solomon, finalist, American Idol (Season 4)
Vonzell Solomon, finalist, American Idol (Season 4)

“I didn’t experience any of that [racial discrimination]” while on American Idol.

Melinda Doolittle, finalist, American Idol (Season 6)
Melinda Doolittle, finalist, American Idol (Season 6)

“It is shocking to see such allegations. In my experience on the show, the American Idol team strives to champion everyone, regardless of race.”

 

American Idol: About Talent … Or Race?

Are contestants really being booted off American Idol because of their race?

“We treat everybody the same,” Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe says, “no matter the race, religion or sex. I think we’ve always had a fantastic share of talent from contestants both Black and white. … I don’t think I’ve ever seen racism at the show.”

The American Idol judges panel features a diverse representation—including Mary J. Blige (Black, guest judge), Lionel Richie (Black, guest judge), Jennifer Lopez (Latina), Paula Abdul (Syrian and Jewish) in previous years, along with 2013 judges Randy Jackson (Black), Mariah Carey (biracial), Nicki Minaj (Black and Asian Indian descent)—Black contestants have won the show. These include Ruben Studdard (winner, Season 2), Fantasia Barrino (winner, Season 3) and Jordin Sparks (winner, Season 6).

American Idol finalists and winners wholeheartedly disagree with the Idol Nine. “It is shocking to see such allegations. In my experience on the show, the Idol team strives to champion everyone, regardless of race. However, each contestant is explicitly told that the withholding of information that may compromise the show or artist can and will result in immediate disqualification,” says Melinda Doolittle, a Season 6 finalist.

Season 4 finalist Vonzell Solomon similarly stated that there was no sense of discrimination and attested to the conditions of the background-check results. “I was clearly informed of all grounds for disqualifications in our contracts. Idol has changed my life for the better. I didn’t feel like there was special attention given to someone because of race. I cannot see where this is coming from,” he says.

Racism Lawsuit: Will American Idol Go to Court?

If the lawsuit does make it to a courtroom, do Freeman and the nine Black men have a chance to win?

It’s unlikely, according to California attorney Anahita Sedaghatfar: “As we saw in the court’s ruling in the infamous race-discrimination lawsuit filed against the show The Bachelor, which was not brought under employment-discrimination laws but under civil-rights statutes, casting decisions by television shows and their producers are protected by the First Amendment. So even if this case is brought under civil-rights laws, it will still be highly unlikely they would prevail.”

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6 Comments

  • These are the kinds of cases that make it hard for the rest of us. I’m quite sure they knew the rules like everyone else. It makes me mad because people will see this and think all Black people want to get over without answering for their past indiscretions.

    They shouldn’t be suing the show. They should take this as a life lesson that what you do today can be the downfall of your future.

  • The only way their case will have any bearing is if their lawyers start doing background checks on “white” contestants and find information that should have been caught by Simon’s deep pocket investigative team. Now if they do find contestants who should have been booted from the show but instead they were voted off they could have another case going as to whether peoples votes really count or if there is voter rigging by the producers of the show. Because it won’t be fair if there is a correllation behind nonwhites getting busted and booted off the show and “white” contestants with similar background issues and they were either quitely removed or quickly voted off, or even given crappy songs that set them up to fail to get voted off the show.

    • Stella Britton

      absolutely That shows producers are liars and they love controversy. There was nothing at all true about the story Joanna Pacitti was close with people in the show LOL LOL they said they were afraid if people knew she knew someone from 19 management ,and lived in same apt building they would be upset How stupid is she for not sueing??? they had nothing on her at all. So I hope these people get all they can from the show!!!!!!!! just sayin

  • This is a ridiculous lawsuit, a complete waste of their time, these former contestants would be better off, taking the opportunity they had on this show to pursue their careers if they are serious, and leave lawsuits for some more serious issues. Such a suit is not worthy of the civil rights issues fought in the past by truly courageous individuals. I know because I am from the generation that experienced discriminatory situations, but chose to honor the efforts of all of the very brave young, old, black and whites who went through dangerous times. I wish these contestants the best, but they need to understand that opportunity is what you make of it.

  • love the show & hope they do a better job in the future

  • It’s true that American Idol displays racism, but it’s exactly the opposite as that suggested by this suit. Blacks represent about 12% of America (or 1 in 8), so there should be, on average, 1.5 black contestants per season. (Easily achieved without cutting contestants in two: Alternate between 1 and 2 black contestants per season.) But instead, almost every season there are at least 3 black contestants! Twice the statistically-appropriate number.

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