New York attorney James H. Freeman is apparently representing the nine. The letter uncovered by TMZ was sent to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in which Freeman asked 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 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)
- Chris Golightly (season 9)
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 decided to take a closer look. After he conducted an investigation into the show, he found that producers had only publicly disqualified 9 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." Freeman alleged that "Idol" has been conducting a "cruel and inhumane" scheme, exploiting African American contestants for the purpose of ratings.
Freeman's letter goes further, claiming that the illegal question, along with arrest records obtained by private investigators working for the show, were used to publicly humiliate the nine contestants on national TV, while at the same time perpetuating "destructive stereotypes" about African Americans.
"Idol" executive producer Nigel Lythgoe responded, 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.
Zap2It pointed out some errors in Freeman's assertions. For example, Chris Golightly was disqualified over an old contract that he failed to disclose to FOX, not an arrest record. In addition, Ju'Not Joyner was not publicly ousted, but instead failed to advance out of the semi-finals, later claiming the show is rigged and that they failed to advance him because he balked at the "Idol" contract.
As for the claim that none aside from African American contestants have been publicly ousted from the show, Zap2It noted that both Delano Cagnolatti (for lying about his age) and Joanna Pacitti (for alleged connections to 19 entertainment executives) were disqualified and replaced in the semi-finals. Neither of them are black.