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Black contestants say they were unfairly dismissed from show because of race

Fox’s longtime singing competition “American Idol” is embroiled in a lawsuit brought by 10 African-American former contestants who say they were unfairly dismissed from the show because of their race.

Their complaint was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging that “American Idol” producers unlawfully acquired information about contestants’ criminal backgrounds for both black and white contestants but then used whatever they found solely against black finalists. If the arrest records of white “Idol” finalists were made public, the suit alleges that they conversely were “championed as models of redemption.”

The suit accuses the producers of using criminal background checks to “systematically disqualify and publicly humiliate” black “Idol” finalists as a ratings ploy, perpetuating stereotypes along the way. It contends that while there “were three times as many White (or non-black) contestants featured on ‘American Idol'” since it began in 2002, “there has never been a single White (or non-black) contestant disqualified” from the series.

Fox and “Idol” production company FremantleMedia have so far declined CNN’s request for comment.

The 10 plaintiffs include Jaered Andrews (season 2), Corey Clark (season 2), Jacob John Smalley (season 2), Donnie Williams (season 3), Terrell and Derrell Brittenum (season 5), Thomas Daniels (season 6), Akron Watson (season 6), Ju’Not Joyner (season 8)and Chris Golightly (season 9).

Each former contestant is seeking $25 million in damages for “economic injuries, lost business opportunities and/or lost earning potential” following their dismissal from “Idol.”


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