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Entertainment & Sports Law

Suit claims ‘American Idol’ execs disqualified black contestants ‘to scandal-monger Nielsen ratings’

Posted Jul 29, 2013 2:04 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Corey Clark in 2005. Featureflash
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A 429-page discrimination lawsuit filed by Corey Clark and nine other former American Idol contestants claims that the show exploited the criminal backgrounds of the black contestants.

The Hollywood Reporter posted the complaint. Rather than allowing African-Americans to compete on their strengths as artists, the suit says, the show’s top senior executives “ran interference on them, sabotaging their promising careers as recording artists and gutting them of the opportunity they rightfully earned to become the next American Idol. Why? Because the plaintiffs’ identities could be used to scandal-monger Nielsen ratings while reinforcing the age-old stereotype of the 'black criminal.'"

The suit says the executives illegally obtained information on criminal backgrounds “through a process known as ‘contestant vetting,’ ” and chose to “publicly humiliate—with maximum fanfare—virtually every top-ranking black American Idol contestant who had a record of arrest (no matter how petty the alleged crime and no matter whether there was a conviction or an acquittal).” White contestants with criminal records, on the other hand, “were championed as models of redemption,” the suit says.

The show’s contestants signed agreements, but the suit claims they are "highly oppressive, unconscionable Willy Wonka contracts."

“Like the fantastical depiction of the visually warped contractual language in the famed 1971 movie,” the suit says, “the American Idol CONTESTANT AGREEMENT strains all levels of comprehension in its mindbending labyrinth of nonsensical provisions."

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