American Idol Accused of Racism By Nine Former Contestants

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Corey Clark | Photo Credits: Ray Tamarra/Getty Images
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Corey Clark | Photo Credits: Ray Tamarra/Getty Images

Nine black former American Idol contestants from various seasons are planning to sue the show, claiming that they were eliminated from the competition due to a racist ratings scheme.

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According to a letter submitted to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and obtained by TMZ, New York attorney James H. Freeman has requested permission to sue Idol and Fox on behalf of his clients: 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) and Chris Golightly (Season 9).

Freeman says he began investigating the show after Jermaine Jones was kicked off on March 15, 2012, because he didn't inform producers about multiple outstanding warrants for his arrest. Freeman then discovered that throughout Idol's then-11-season run, only nine other people had been publically disqualified. And as it turns out, all of them happened to be black.

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The contestants' attorney claims that these eliminations were all part of a "cruel and inhumane" plot to humiliate black singers to boost ratings. According to Freeman, it starts as early as the background checks when producers ask, "Have you ever been arrested?" This is a violation of the California employment law, Freeman asserts, since his clients were applying for "employment" with Idol and it is therefore illegal to ask about their arrest histories.

Freeman alleges that the producers would then use those answers, along with arrest records obtained by private investigators, to perpetuate "destructive stereotypes" about black people when the information would later be revealed on Idol.

According to Freeman, none of the disqualified contestants were convicted of the crimes they were charged with at the time of their eliminations, yet the show made his clients appear to be "violent criminals, liars and sexual deviants."

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If Freeman gets approval from the EEOC, he plans to file a formal lawsuit.

Though Fox declined to comment, Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said he was "shocked" by Freeman's "ridiculous" claims. "We treat everybody the same," Lythgoe said, "no matter the race, religion or sex."

He continued, "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."

Do you think Freeman's allegations hold any weight?

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