American Idol Accused of Racism

The newest season of “American Idol” kicked off with last year’s judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez being replaced with the feuding Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj.

While some may be talking about the rotating judges, a new controversy has arisen.  Nine former “American Idol” contestants – all African American males – are suing the show, claiming that they were kicked off the show as a part of a racist plot.

The former contestants are Corey Clark (Season 2), Jaered Andrews (Season 2), Donnie Williams (Season 3), Terrell Brittenum (Season 5), Derrell Brittenum (Season 5), Thomas Daniels (Season 6), Akron Watson (Season 6), Ju’Not Joyner (Season 8) and Chris Golightly (Season 9).

Attorney James H. Freeman was asked to look into the case and noted that “American Idol” had disqualified 9 individuals in its history and all were African American males.

Andrews disclosed an assault charge, but producers still let him go.

Williams made it to the top 32, but the night before returning to the Hollywood auditions, he partied, got drunk and was arrested for DUI.

The Brittenums are identical twin brothers from Memphis who were disqualified when it was learned that they were arrested and charged with identity theft.

Daniels was arrested for DUI and hit-and-run and when it was discovered, he was disqualified.

Watson was disqualified for a misdemeanor possession (marijuana) charge from 2003.

Joyner, as far as I can tell, wasn’t charged with any crime, but said the Idol producers told him he was a “troublemaker” and he was eliminated early on.

Golightly was disqualified because producers believed he was already under contract (a no-no for contestants).

If Clark’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s been in the news quite a bit.  He was release from his season for a 2003 misdemeanor battery and resisting arrest charge.  In 2005, he claimed to have had a relationship with Idol judge Paula Abdul.  An internal investigation found the claims weren’t substantiated by any evidence or witnesses.  He’s been in trouble for writing bad checks, domestic violence, and well, you get the picture.  Clark also filed a $40 million plus lawsuit against MTV under the claim that correspondent Jim Cantiello called him a liar and “called for a boycott of his music.”

Freeman’s case will be that Idol exploited these contestants for a boost in ratings.  While the producers do ask contestants if they have ever been arrested, Freeman claims this is a violation of California employment law and his clients are “applying” for a job when auditioning for Idol.

Freeman also said none of the contestants were convicted of the crimes for which they were disqualified.  The lawsuit claims the contestants “personal and professional lives remain permanently and severely impaired by [the show’s] continuing violations of our nation’s laws.”

Freeman has submitted the claims to the EEOC, which will have to approve it before it goes to court.

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Libby Pelham

About Libby Pelham

I have always loved to write and gives me the opportunity to share my passion for writing with others. I work full-time as a web developer at UTHSC and most of my other time is spent with my son (born 2004). I love everything pop culture, but also enjoy writing about green living (it has opened my eyes to many things!) and health (got to worry about that as you get older!).