The American Idol Racism Lawsuit Trudges On

Today, a district judge heard oral arguments in a racism case brought against American Idol. Nearly a dozen former African-American contestants are suing Fox, producers and sponsors over disqualifications, alleging racial discrimination and fraud.

Here are the highlights, via The Hollywood Reporter:

  • Presiding, Judge Buchwald, “basically declared that she would never certify a class action in this lawsuit — she said it would not meet the “numerosity” requirement…”
  • Corey Clark, the season 2 defendant disqualified in the midst of the season, was the only plaintiff in attendance.
  • “This was marketed as a bona fide competition where the contestants would be judged as singers,” said the plaintiff’s lawyer, James Freeman. “We believe that is not what it was. Moreover, when the singers signed up, it was not foreseeable that producers would do background checks on them and leak it to the press. They used the background data without consent and had rap sheets pulled by databases used by law enforcement and security organizations.”
  • Freeman charges that FOX owns a big brother-like global security firm that gives them carte blanche to dig into the contestants past.
  • And, the producers sent the information used to disqualify them to TMZ and other gossip sites in order to humiliate them. . “It was cruel,” said the lawyer. “It was bad enough they got knocked off the show, not based on their performances. They were then ostracized. … It hurts at a deep human level.”
  • The defendants judge,  Daniel Petrocelli, notes that the 4 year statute of limitations has run out on nearly all of the plaintiffs. But the plaintiff’s lawyer charges the clock didn’t begin ticking until discovery. The defendants’ lawyer countered with a slew of former cases he insists set precedents to dismiss.
  • The plaintiff’s point to a statistical study they had commissioned that they feel proves that the decisions are not random, but part of larger, systemic pattern of racial discrimination on the part of the defendants.
  • The defendants’  lawyer also brought up 1st amendment issues, and the very specific release forms all contestants sign, which basically allows producers to paint them in a negative light.  However, there are questions of whether the extensive background checks are part of the contract. The  judge expressed dismay at the ability for producers to do such sweeping checks, which means at least part of the plaintiff’s claim may survive.

This case has become so complicated and there appears to be no end in sight. It seems that at least part of the case will be thrown out of court, while other elements could survive.  I’ll update when the judge makes her ruling.


About mj santilli 33671 Articles
Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!