Paula Abdul Sues American Idol Producer Nigel Lythgoe on Sexual Assault Claims

Paula Abdul Nigel Lythgoe
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Paula Abdul Nigel Lythgoe
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Photo Credit: Super Festivals PE3_5663 / CC by 2.0

Paula Abdul sues American Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe on multiple counts of sexual assault in a lawsuit he calls ‘deeply offensive.’

Paula Abdul has filed a lawsuit in the Los Angeles County Superior Court claiming that producer Nigel Lythgoe had sexually assaulted her on two occasions while they worked together on American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. Lythgoe says he is “shocked and saddened” by the allegations against him, asserting that the relationship was “entirely platonic.”

Abdul’s lawsuit was filed under California’s Sexual Abuse and Cover up Accountability Act, which allows civil sexual assault suits to be made regardless of the statute of limitations. She is suing the defendants — Lythgoe, 19 Entertainment, FremantleMedia North America, American Idol Productions, and Dance Nation Productions — for sexual assault/battery, sexual harassment, gender violence, and negligence. The suit outlines that American Idol Productions is a subsidiary of FremantleMedia, while Dance Nation Productions is a subsidiary of 19 Entertainment.

According to the filing, Lythgoe first sexually assaulted Abdul in the early 2000s “while on the road for the regional audience,” during one of American Idol’s first seasons. The 61-year-old Abdul was a judge on American Idol between 2002 and 2009.

Abdul says that upon entering an elevator, Lythgoe “shoved (her) against the wall, then grabbed her genitals and breasts and began shoving his tongue down her throat.” She “attempted to push Lythgoe away from her and let him know that his behavior was not acceptable.”

Following the incident, Abdul says she called one of her representatives to let them know what had happened, but that she was afraid to take action “for fear that Lythgoe would have her fired from American Idol.”

The lawsuit also alleges that Abdul was “discriminated against in terms of compensation and benefits compared to one of the show’s male judges and the host,” as well as being “the target of constant taunts, bullying, humiliation, and harassment,” while working on the show.

Abdul claims the second assault took place in 2015 while she was a judge on So You Think You Can Dance. The lawsuit details a dinner at Lythgoe’s home that Abdul had attended, believing it to be a professional invitation, where the producer is said to have “forced himself on top of Abdul while she was seated on his couch and attempted to kiss her while proclaiming that the two would make an excellent ‘power couple.’”

Also in 2015, the lawsuit alleges that Abdul witnessed an assault carried out by Lythgoe against the singer’s assistant. The 74-year-old Lythgoe has denied the allegations against him, citing Abdul’s “history of erratic behavior” and promising to “fight this appalling smear with everything I have.”