Paula Abdul alleged in a lawsuit Friday that she was sexually assaulted twice by Nigel Lythgoe, the executive producer of “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”
Abdul rose to stardom in the late 1980s and built a second career as a judge on reality show competitions in the early 2000s. She alleges in the lawsuit that during one of the first seasons of “American Idol,” Lithgow sexually assaulted her in an elevator.
She claims he pushed her against the wall, groped her breasts and genitals, and stuck his tongue down her throat. According to the lawsuit, she tried to push him away, and as soon as the hotel door opened, she ran into her room.
Years later, Abdul became a judge on So You Think You Can Dance. Lithgow invited her to his house for dinner, and she accepted, thinking it would be a professional meeting. However, according to the lawsuit, Lithgow forced himself on her while she was sitting on his couch, tried to kiss her, and said they would make a great “power couple.”
Again, she pushed him away and fled his home, the suit says.
The lawsuit also accuses Lithgow of verbal harassment and bullying, and alleges that Abdul was discriminated against and was paid less than male judges on “American Idol.” The lawsuit also alleges that the show would be edited in a misleading manner to make it appear incompetent.
Additionally, Abdul alleges that she witnessed Lithgow sexually assault one of her female aides in April 2015, during which he pressed and groped the aide without her consent.
“For years, Abdul remained silent about the sexual assaults and harassment she suffered because of Lythgoe out of fear that speaking out against one of TV's most famous game show producers could easily break her career as a TV personality,” the lawsuit states. “Ostracism and marginalization by the industry… “It had a pattern of protecting powerful men and silencing survivors of sexual assault and harassment.”
The lawsuit claims Lythgoe's behavior was public knowledge, and cites a MADtv parody in which Lythgoe was seen harassing contestants.
According to the lawsuit, Lithgow once called Abed and taunted her, saying it had been seven years and the statute of limitations had expired.
Abdul signed non-disclosure agreements as part of her work on both reality shows, preventing her from revealing confidential or derogatory information.
Abdul filed the suit under California's Sexual Assault Accountability and Concealment Act, which creates a one-year window to file some sexual assault claims that may be outside the statute of limitations. The deadline to submit a file is December 31.
Abdul also filed a lawsuit against 19 Entertainment, FremantleMedia North America, American Idol Productions, and Dance Nation Productions. The lawsuit alleges that the companies failed to take steps to discipline Lythgoe and protect him from accountability.
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