Paula Abdul Sues ‘American Idol’ Producer Nigel Lythgoe for Sexual Assault

The civil suit alleges the producer forced himself on the TV personality during her time on “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance”

Paula Abdul (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

In a new lawsuit, Paula Abdul has accused “American Idol” producer Nigel Lythgoe of sexually assaulting her multiple times and then harassing her.

The suit, filed Friday in Los Angeles, alleges the first incident of sexual assault perpetrated by Lythgoe dates back to one of the first seasons of “American Idol,” during which Abdul was the only judge with American celebrity status after the Fox show was adapted from British competition show “Pop Idol.”

Lythgoe, the suit says, groped Abdul’s breasts and genitals while the two were in an elevator in the hotel they were staying while on the road during regional auditions for “American Idol. Abdul tried to push him off and told him his behavior was inappropriate before running to her room once the elevator doors opened.

Back in her room, Abdul shared the incident with one of her representatives, though refrained from taking action as she feared she would be fired from the show.

The suit also alleges that during her eight-season run on “American Idol” Abdul was a “target of constant taunts, bullying, humiliation and harassment” from executives, agents and employees, and was discriminated against in terms of compensation, despite her American celebrity ushering in ratings success for the new show.

Abdul says Lythgoe sexually assaulted her again years later, after her exit from “American Idol” when she was approached to become a judge on “So You Think You Can Dance.” After agreeing to appear on the show’s 12th season in 2015, Lythgoe invited Abdul to a private dinner to discuss how the pair could work together in the future.

Instead, the suit says, Lythgoe forced himself on top of Abdul while they were seated on a couch in his residence and attempted to kiss her, telling her the pair would make a great “power couple.” Abdul pushed him off and expressed her lack of interest in his proposition and left his home. Again, she did not take action against Lythgoe out of fear of retaliation and being blackballed in the industry.

In statement to TheWrap, Lythgoe denied Abdul’s allegations outlined in the suit, noting they are “deeply offensive to [him] and to everything [he] stands for.”

“To say that I am shocked and saddened by the allegations made against me by Paula Abdul is a wild understatement. For more than two decades, Paula and I have interacted as dear – and entirely platonic – friends and colleagues. Yesterday, however, out of the blue, I learned of these claims in the press and I want to be clear: not only are they false, they are deeply offensive to me and to everything I stand for,” Lythgoe’s statement read. “While Paula’s history of erratic behavior is well known, I can’t pretend to understand exactly why she would file a lawsuit that she must know is untrue. But I can promise that I will fight this appalling smear with everything I have.”

In addition to Lythgoe, defendants named in the suit include “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance” production company 19 Entertainment, “American Idol” producer FremantleMedia, 19 Entertainment subsidiary Dance Nation Productions, Inc. as well as American Idol Productions, Inc.

Representatives for Lythgoe, 19 Entertainment and FremantleMedia didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment from TheWrap.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.


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