Following on the heels of news that said that a New York attorney has made moves to bring a lawsuit against Fox, citing that racism was involved in the public ouster of nine former "American Idol" contestants comes a brand-new report on Sunday quoting four former "Idol" finalists, two of them who are African-American, rebutting the charges.
If New York attorney James H. Freeman is given the go-ahead by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a lawsuit may be forthcoming. Freeman has asked the EEOC for permission to sue "American Idol" and FOX on behalf of his clients, claiming their dismissals from "Idol" was part of a racist plot to boost the show's ratings.
Because of the nature of the suit -- elaborated on below -- Freeman is required to ask the EEOC. The list of nine is as follows:
- Corey Clark (season two)
- Jaered Andrews (season two)
- Donnie Williams (season three)
- Terrell Brittenum (season five)
- Derrell Brittenum (season five)
- Thomas Daniels (season six)
- Akron Watson (season six)
- Ju'Not Joyner (season eight)
- Chris Golightly (season nine)
Freeman claims he became suspicious of "Idol" when Jermaine Jones, not a client, was booted from the show in 2012's season 11. Producers claimed it was because Jones failed to inform them about outstanding warrants for his arrest.
At that point, Freeman said, he took a closer look. He conducted an investigation into the show, and according to the letter to the EEOC, he discovered that producers had only publicly disqualified nine other people from the show since its inception, and that all were African American.
As Freeman noted, though, the show's background check includes the question "Have you ever been arrested," which he claims violates California employment law. Freeman asserted that the contestants are essentially applying for "employment" with "American Idol." He alleged that "Idol" has been conducting a "cruel and inhumane" scheme, exploiting African American contestants for the purpose of ratings.
However, the four former contestants who spoke out on Sunday strongly disagreed. Season six finalist Melinda Doolittle adamantly said,
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.
She is, of course, speaking regarding the Jones issue brought forth by Freeman.
Season four finalist Vonzell Solomon added,
I didn’t experience any of that [racial discrimination] ... all of our contracts were clear about how the background checks worked and that we could be disqualified if we lied about our past.
Season five winner Taylor Hicks said:
"American Idol" is for everyone. All walks of life go through the show. Not once did I see the show discriminate towards anyone. It’s all about the votes.
Finally, season 10 finalist Casey Abrams also agreed, saying,
I don't know why they are biting the hand that fed them. Those guys beat thousands of people who wanted to be on TV. "Idol" is picky, but I'm not sure about racist.
The only statement thus far has come from "Idol" executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, who said after being informed of the letter:
We treat everybody the same -- 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.
"Idol" has had three African-American winners in its history: Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino and Jordin Sparks.