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10 Ex-American Idol Contestants Sue Alleging Racism
July 26, 2013 at 3:23 PM

10 ex-'Idol' contestants sue, alleging racism

By Breeanna Hare, CNN
updated 1:17 PM EDT, Fri July 26, 2013

Fox and
Fox and "American Idol's" production company, FremantleMedia, have declined CNN's request for comment on the lawsuit.
  • Ten former "Idol" contestants have sued, alleging racial bias
  • The suit says the contestants were targeted for ridicule and public dismissal
  • The plaintiffs are seeking $25 million each in damages
  • Fox and "Idol" producers have declined to comment

(CNN) -- Fox's longtime singing competition "American Idol" is embroiled in a lawsuit brought by 10 African-American former contestants who say they were unfairly dismissed from the show because of their race.

Their complaint was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging that "American Idol" producers unlawfully acquired information about contestants' criminal backgrounds for both black and white contestants but then used whatever they found solely against black finalists. If the arrest records of white "Idol" finalists were made public, the suit alleges that they conversely were "championed as models of redemption."

The suit accuses the producers of using criminal background checks to "systematically disqualify and publicly humiliate" black "Idol" finalists as a ratings ploy, perpetuating stereotypes along the way. It contends that while there "were three times as many White (or non-black) contestants featured on 'American Idol'" since it began in 2002, "there has never been a single White (or non-black) contestant disqualified" from the series.

Fox and "Idol" production company FremantleMedia have so far declined CNN's request for comment.

The 10 plaintiffs include Jaered Andrews (season 2), Corey Clark (season 2), Jacob John Smalley (season 2), Donnie Williams (season 3), Terrell and Derrell Brittenum (season 5), Thomas Daniels (season 6), Akron Watson (season 6), Ju'Not Joyner (season 8)and Chris Golightly (season 9).

Each former contestant is seeking $25 million in damages for "economic injuries, lost business opportunities and/or lost earning potential" following their dismissal from "Idol."

Their attorney, James H. Freeman, said the exit of season 11 contestant Jermaine Jones inspired him to take the case. In 2012,Jones was disqualified from "Idol" for allegedly concealing "multiple crimes and outstanding police warrants," but Jones isn't a part of the current lawsuit.

In an interview with CNN, Jones said he had a "really good experience" as a contestant, although he disagrees with the way he was kicked off the show.

"I think that they handled (the situation) the way they wanted to handle the situation. Do I agree with it? Of course not. I would love to have been on the show to be able to compete," Jones said. "But you know I take the highs and the lows, the good and the bad."

When he was asked to be a part of the lawsuit, Jones said he declined. "I'm grateful for the whole experience. You know, the good parts, the bad parts -- it all made me who I am, and it helped enhance and cultivate me as a person (and) as a musician, as an artist, as a performer. I'm just moving forward."

During the 12 seasons of "American Idol," four African-American contestants have won: Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Jordin Sparks (who is biracial) and Candice Glover.


  • MeAndTommyLee
    July 26, 2013 at 3:25 PM

    They lost.  Get over it.  Really?  How are we to deal with this exactly -- affirmative action?  Ridiculous.

  • anikahaynes1
    July 26, 2013 at 3:27 PM
    How can they prove they were being racially discriminated against??
  • Mommy_of_Riley
    July 26, 2013 at 3:34 PM
    Ummm... Randy Jackson is black and was a judge as well as a producer for a long time on the show.

    And what about Fantasia? Reuben Studdard? Jordan Sparks?
  • greenie63
    July 26, 2013 at 3:41 PM

    So true. 

    Quoting Mommy_of_Riley:

    Ummm... Randy Jackson is black and was a judge as well as a producer for a long time on the show.

    And what about Fantasia? Reuben Studdard? Jordan Sparks?

  • Veni.Vidi.Vici.
    July 26, 2013 at 3:44 PM

    All I get from this is that the people who are suing/have sued are a bunch of sore losers.

  • Debmomto2girls
    July 26, 2013 at 3:50 PM
    This makes no sense. Doesn't America vote?
  • MsDenuninani
    July 26, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    I wouldn't be shocked if there is some truth to their allegations - namely, that the criminal histories were used against black contestants but similar histories were not used against white ones.

    That's taking their allegations at face value.

    That said, their damages -- $25M based on "lost busineess opportunities and/or lost earning potential"?  That seems a stretch.  What in the world makes them believe they would have 1) won or even 2) had any kind of recording career worth $25 million?  Many of the winners haven't raked in that kind of dough.

  • Thomigirl
    July 26, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    I can't STAND this show...however, PROVE IT otherwise this is nonsense. 

  • heresjohnny
    July 26, 2013 at 5:01 PM
    Um, they're going to lose. Big time.....especially considering last season's WINNER was black, lol.
  • jean_marie1987
    July 26, 2013 at 5:07 PM
    It doesn't say they were voted off, it says they were disqualified for some reason.

    Quoting Debmomto2girls:

    This makes no sense. Doesn't America vote?

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