Credit: FOX Photo: American Idol Logo

Original story (July 25, 2013):

American Idol
 is coming under fire with 10 black former contestants suing Fox's long-running reality competition show, claiming they were kicked off because of their race.

TMZ was the first to report this news, and the contestants' lawyer, James H. Freeman, claims American Idol used his clients' history and made them appear to be "violent criminals, liars, and sexual deviants." He notes that none of the 10 former contestants, who are all men, were even convicted of the charges that got them kicked off the show.

Let's meet the plaintiffs being represented in the case, shall we?

  • Corey Clark (Season 2): disqualified after it was revealed that he was previously arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery on police officers and his sister, as well as endangering the life of a child
  • Jaered Andrews (Season 2): dismissed following the discovery of an assault charge stemming from a fatal bar fight
  • Jacob John Smalley (Season 2): eliminated early on in his season
  • Donnie Williams (Season 3): pulled from the show after an arrest for speeding and drunk driving while Idol was filming
  • Terrell Brittenum and Derrell Brittenum (Season 5): twin brothers who were cut after executives learned of an arrest and charges of identity theft
  • Thomas Daniels (Season 6): dismissed after his drunk driving charges and other criminal records came to light
  • Akron Watson (Season 6): kicked off after producers found out about a prior misdemeanor for possession of marijuana, which he claimed producers were made aware of previously
  • Ju'Not Joyner (Season 8): claims he was disqualified from the show because he questioned the contract
  • Chris Golightly (Season 9): allegedly let go over complications with a former recording contract


Their lawyer is saying that illegal activity starts when Idol producers ask contestants if they have ever been arrested. According to TV Guide, James says that is a violation of the California employment law, since his clients were applying for "employment" with Idol, making it illegal for them to ask about arrest histories.

James also claims that no white contestants have been kicked off for strange reasons, but if you remember back in Season 8, Joanna Pacitti, a white female, was disqualified when it was revealed the was close with two executives at 19 Enteratinment, the company that produces Idol along with FremantleMedia.

Also, we'll point out that four black contestants have gone on to win the entire show: Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Jordin Sparks, and most recently, Candice Glover

We'll be watching this story as it develops, so check back for the latest.

Update (November 26, 2013):

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the defendants in the case — including American Idol producers — filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on Monday, November 25, citing several arguments against the contestants' claims.

For one, they point out how one-third of the Golden Ticket winners in the show's history have been African-American and that four of them have ended up winning their respective seasons.

Also, the contestants know full well that their lives will be dramatized for the show. “As an expressive work, American Idol is entitled to the First Amendment’s full protection," the motion reads.

Plus, the producers make contestants sign contracts that "provide that [producers] have discretion not only to disqualify contestants at any time, but to disqualify them for the specific reasons that [the] plaintiffs were disqualified."

We'll see if the motion carries through!

Source: TMZ, TV GuideThe Hollywood Reporter