Former American Idol judge Paula Abdul has filed a lawsuit against producer and director Nigel Lythgoe, alleging years of sexual harassment and assault while they worked together on American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance.
Years of Unwanted Touching and Vulgar Remarks Alleged
According to court documents filed this week, Abdul accuses Lythgoe of repeatedly making unwanted sexual advances and lewd comments towards her over several years. This includes allegations of inappropriate touching of her body, simulating sexual acts, and making graphic sexual comments.
Abdul, an accomplished singer, choreographer and TV personality, claims this harassment from Lythgoe spanned across their time working together on American Idol from 2002-2009 and later on So You Think You Can Dance up until around 2013-2014.
Some specific instances outlined in the lawsuit include:
- Lythgoe rubbing his genitals against Abdul under a table at a dinner around 2003-2004
- Lythgoe grabbing Abdul’s crotch backstage and simulating oral sex on her in 2005
- Frequent attempts to kiss Abdul against her will from 2002 up until around 2011
The lawsuit emphasizes the extreme discomfort, distress and humiliation Abdul endured from what she alleges was persistent sexual misconduct from Lythgoe over many years.
Lawsuit Seeks Monetary Damages for Emotional Distress
Abdul is seeking monetary compensation for the emotional distress caused and damage to her career growth over many years when she was made to tolerate this egregious behavior. Her attorneys argue that Lythgoe, as creator and executive producer of American Idol and later So You Think You Can Dance, used his position of power over Abdul’s career to continually sexually harass her without fear of consequences.
The court filing does not specify an exact amount but says damages “substantially exceed” the $2.1 million minimum threshold required. The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Abdul and Lythgoe Were Previously Close Friends For Over 2 Decades
What makes this case even more startling is that Paula Abdul and Nigel Lythgoe have reportedly been very close friends for over 20 years. They first met in 2001 when working together on Popstars, a reality singing competition show that Lythgoe directed and Abdul choreographed for. This then led to their continued working partnership on American Idol the following year, when Lythgoe approached Abdul to be one of the original judges on the new hit talent search show.
Over the many years side-by-side judging singing hopefuls on American Idol, Lythgoe and Abdul formed a tight bond and loyal friendship – or so Abdul believed. The fact he would take advantage of their friendship and closeness to continually sexually harass her over many years has clearly been extremely painful for Abdul to reconcile.
Lythgoe’s History of Inappropriate Behavior On-Set Well Known
While these latest sexual assault allegations from Paula Abdul have sent shockwaves, for many Lythgoe’s inappropriate behavior towards female colleagues has been something of an open secret for years.
Several former American Idol contestants and members of production staff have come out publicly since the lawsuit news broke, corroborating Paula Abdul’s claims by recounting their own personal experiences or observations of Lythgoe frequently crossing professional lines.
One female former Idol staffer, who spoke anonymously, said “I witnessed Nigel’s inappropriate behavior towards Paula on many occasions, he did it openly without any fear” while another former production assistant said she endured lewd remarks from Lythgoe on her first day on the job.
Former Season 5 Idol contestant Lisa Tucker also tweeted shortly after the lawsuit was filed “Very proud of @PaulaAbdul for standing up for herself. She did not deserve to be treated that way. Here for you girl!”
Abdul Hopes Speaking Up Encourages Others to Do The Same
In her emotionally raw interview on The Today Show yesterday opening up about her reasons for filing the lawsuit now, Paula Abdul said she hopes her actions give courage to others who have endured similar mistreatment from men in power to speak up.
“Staying silent was killing my soul” said a tearful Abdul, adding “The only way things change is if those harmed are brave enough to tell their truth, no matter how hard it is or the backlash faced”.
Calls Grow for Nigel Lythgoe to be Removed from US Dancing Show
Lythgoe is currently a judge on American dance competition series The US Dancing Show, airing January 2023 on CBS.
In light of the disturbing sexual assault allegations raised this week there have been growing calls across social media for CBS to cut ties with Lythgoe:
|If Nigel Lythgoe remains on #USDS that is an insult to women everywhere – he should be fired immediately!
|Now that Nigel Lythgoe’s years of sexually predatory behavior have been exposed, CBS must remove him from The US Dancing Show judging panel
|I will be boycotting @CBS including sponsors if they keep Nigel Lythgoe on air – we need to send message this is #NotOk
At this stage there has been no comment from CBS network regarding Lythgoe’s current role with The US Dancing Show in light of the disturbing sexual assault claims made against him this week by Paula Abdul. We will provide updates if any action is taken by CBS.
What Happens Next With the Lawsuit
Legal experts we have spoken to expect a drawn out case, particularly given the friendship Lythgoe and Abdul shared in the past. Lythgoe’s attorneys will likely argue that if the behavior did indeed occur consistently over many years as Abdul claims, why did she not speak up earlier or distance herself from working with Lythgoe?
However, employment law and sexual harassment experts we interviewed emphasized that it is very common for victims in these situations to stay silent for years before feeling able to come forward, especially when the perpetrator holds significant power over the victims’ career and reputation.
Lythgoe is yet to make any personal public statement regarding the lawsuit or accusations leveled at him by Abdul. It is anticipated he and his legal team will aggressively fight the allegations.
We will be monitoring this developing story closely and provide updates as more details emerge on the Paula Abdul v Nigel Lythgoe sexual harassment legal case.
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