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Paula Abdul Sues TV Producer Nigel Lythgoe for Sexual Assault and Harassment

Updated: Jul 5

The singer claims the television producer behind “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance” sexually assaulted and verbally berated her on many occasions.

Nigel Lythgoe posing for cameras on red carpet; Paula Abdul judging on American Idol
Paul Abdul was a staple on “American Idol” during the years of 2002–2009 (Photo Courtesy: Kevin Winter/2011 Getty Images/20th Century Fox/Everett Collection)

Paul Abdul, former judge on “American Idol,” filed a lawsuit against producer Nigel Lythgoe, according to various reports.

In the suit, Abdul alleges that Lythgoe “verbally insulted  and belittled” her in various incidents dating back to 2001. She alleges that the TV producer sexually assaulted her during early seasons of “American Idol.” 

The “Straight Up” singer was approached to be a part of the show called “Pop Idol.” This was around the time she was coming out of her six-year hiatus, which she took due to injury. When she met with executives of the show, Lythgoe insulted and belittled her. 

For one, the suit claims that Lythgoe called her a “has-been celebrity,” stating that contestants might not know who she was. Despite the commentary, Abdul claims that producers said she was what they were looking for. Though, she left the meeting with reservations about appearing on the show. 

She and her team brushed past Lythgoe’s comments and agreed to the show. They did so hoping that the incident would be a one-time thing.

Regarding the sexual assault, the suit alleges it happend in an elevator after auditions. 

“…following the day’s auditions, Lythgoe and Abdul entered the elevator of the hotel where they were staying. Upon entering the elevator, Lythgoe shoved Abdul against the wall, then grabbed her genitals and breasts, and began moving his tongue down her throat,” the suit read. 

Once the elevators opened, Abdul ran out to her hotel room and proceeded to call one of her representatives to tell them about the incident.

In another instance, specifically in 2014, Abdul claims she was assaulted again while attending a dinner at Lythoe’s house. Lythgoe allegedly forced himself on top of Abdul while she was sitting on his couch and tried to kiss her. 

The suit said that he proclaimed that the two would be an excellent “power couple.” Abdul then pushed him off, stating her disinterest and subsequently left. 

She also claims that she wasn’t the only one who fell victim to such incidents. Abdul alleges that she witnessed Lythgoe assault one of her assistants during the filming of “So You Think You Can Dance” in 2015. 

According to the suit, Lythgoe “approached Abdul and [her assistant] from behind pressed himself against [Abdul’s assistant] and began to grope her. [Abdul’s assistant] did not consent.”

Abdul notes she didn’t speak up publicly about the alleged incidents due to the possible backlash and retaliation. The suit claims that her contracts on both “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance” wouldn’t allow her to publicly speak about “sensitive information.”

The suit also details how Abdul allegedly dealt with discrimination and disparaging commentary throughout her time on “American Idol.”

“Throughout her tenure on ‘American Idol,’ Abdul not only was discriminated against in terms of compensation and benefits as compared to one of the show’s male judges and host,” the suit read. “…but she was the target of constant taunts, bullying, humiliation, and harassment from Lythgoe and other executives, agents, employees and/or representatives of the show’s producers.”

Alongside Lythgoe, American Idol Productions, Dance Nation Productions, 19 Entertainment and Fremantlemedia North America were listed as defendants in the suit.

None of the defendants listed in the suit have publicly commented on the suit. 


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