The $250 Million American Idol Racism Lawsuit: Is Something Off-Key About the Plaintiffs' Song?

Corey Clark American Idol LawsuitA group of 10 former American Idol contestants — including Season 5’s tantrum-throwing Brittenum twins and Season 2’s Corey Clark (best remembered for claiming he had an affair with judge Paula Abdul) — are suing the show and producer Fremantle Media for a whopping $25 million apiece, claiming they were booted from the competition due to racism. The suit was first reported by TMZ.

In addition to Clark (pictured) and Terrell and Derrell Brittenum, the contestants involved in the suit include Season 2’s Jaered Andrews and Jacob John Smalley, Season 3’s Donnie Williams, Season 6’s Thomas Daniels and Akron Watson, Season 8’s Ju’Not Joyner and Season 9’s Chris Golightly.

The plaintiffs’ attorney alleges that Idol only questions black contestants about their prior arrest records, a pattern that led to his clients being painted as “violent criminals, liars and sexual deviants,” according to papers cited by TMZ.

Counteracting the plaintiffs’ claim is the fact that throughout 12 seasons of Idol, four of the winners — Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Jordin Sparks and Candice Glover — were either black or from a mixed racial background.

Clark, Smalley and Joyner are the only members of the suit who advanced as far as Idol‘s voting rounds. Clark made it to Season 2’s Top 10, but was disqualified when the Smoking Gun website revealed he’d been arrested on battery charges earlier that year.

Smalley was ousted by voters during the Season 2 semifinals — losing out to fellow African-American contestants Ruben Studdard and Kimberley Locke after a cover of Brian McKnight’s “Anytime.” Joyner made it to the Season 8 Top 36, but didn’t receive enough votes — losing a spot in the finals to Lil Rounds, Scott MacIntyre and Jorge Nuñez — despite a solid rendition of “Hey There, Delilah.”

Season 3’s Williams had been slated to perform in the semifinals, but was disqualified after a DUI arrest and replaced by George Huff. Similarly, Season 9’s Golightly had been announced as a semifinalist, but was replaced after questions arose whether he was already under contract when he’d begun the competition.

Spokespersons from Fremantle and Fox declined to comment for this story.

What’s your feeling on the American Idol racism lawsuit? Take our poll below, then sound off in the comments!

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  1. Steve says:

    Should be thrown out immediately. Even if they won, they wouldnt have made $25 million…Theres no evidence…They all lied and were caught; it wasnt just about being asked about anything. Plus 4 black winners out of 12 which is much higher than the black population in the US

  2. And we all know what a D-Bag Clark is.

  3. Austin says:

    American Idol is not biased. It’s not their fault some people aren’t great singers. I think it’s hilarious they think they are biased against blacks when they had four black winners including last season. This is soooo unnecessary.

  4. missnisha6849 says:

    Reuben Studdard. Fantasia Barino. Jordin Sparks. Melinda Doolittle (who wins at life!). Candice Glover. A host of other Black finalists. All successful Idol Alumni.

    Their arguments are totally invalid.

    As soon as I saw Corey Clark and Ju’not Joyner on the suit, I tuned out. What the actual heck are they suing for?! This is going to go the way of “The Bachelor” suit. Didn’t Corey fail utterly in his attempts to smear Paula before?

    On the other hand, if Freemantle Media ONLY singled out Black contestants for criminal screening, I can see a case, but not for $250 million. Goodness knows Idol is going to need all that cash to help their ailing enterprise.

    All in all, frivolous lawsuit!

  5. Maria says:

    This season’s winner, Candice Glover, is black. (And an awesome singer, by the way). Also, out of the 4 judges, only Keith is white. How does any of that mean the show is racist?

    • Larc says:

      We all know this group is 100% made up of totally fantastic talent. They are all so undeniably great that racism has to be the only reason they couldn’t continue on Idol. Just look at their huge superstar careers since they were on the show. ;)

      • j says:

        funny. And even funnier that the one person who has done the best was voted out and did not win – she got her revenge, didn’t you, Jennifer Hudson? I bet she isn’t in this flimsy lawsuit

  6. Steven says:

    Not to mention Paris Bennett who placed fifth in Season 5 and still has done pretty well for herself. As much as I hate American Idol there is no case here.

  7. Louie says:

    This lawsuit is as bogus as Corey Clark’s credibility.
    Having said that, I will lose all respect for Idol and Fremantle if they cave in and do any kind of settlement to those low-class freeloaders.

  8. missnisha6849 says:

    There’s also Mandisa, who has done VERY well for herself in the Christian music scene. Even Frenchie Davis, who was kicked off of Idol for harmless pictures & should be a part of this suit (I hope she isn’t, BTW), has gone on to Broadway & also on The Voice’s inaugural season, and has done well. Corey & co. badly need to get on with their lives.

  9. Michelle says:

    Um, hello?? RANDY JACKSON IS BLACK. And he is a JUDGE! Good luck winning this case idiots

  10. And Jennifer Hudson, of course!

  11. Deion says:

    LOL, someone tell Corey Clark that sour grapes held on to this long have long turned into raisins. I stopped watching after Season 2, but he was disqualified for lying about his pending case, not because it was revealed. I even heard that Trenyce from that same season was known as just Trenyce on the show because she was honest about her troubles with the law and was not disqualified when it was reported in the press.This suit is completely bogus.

  12. Allen says:

    Let’s not forget about Jennifer Hudson as well…such a ridiculous lawsuit, the plaintiffs should have to PAY for wasting the courts time and wasting taxpayer money

  13. Tammy says:

    The one thing I notice about some of these former contestants is the fact they lied about former/current arrest records. I can remember Nigel stating that if contestants were up front about former/current legal issues, that AI would work with them if they could. It would depend on what the issue was about. Hasn’t there been contestants with outstanding legal issues before that actually got to compete on AI because they were upfront about it when they auditioned? Unless they can prove there were white contestants, with legal issues that weren’t disclosed up front, that got to continue competing after it came out……. no case. Or prove white contestants are never asked (which is false, I think it’s in the papers they fill out to compete or at least when they get to Hollywood). This just comes down to whether or not American Idol was consistent with all contestants.

  14. jay says:

    And why is it that we all assume they lied….oh I know! It’s because Fix said so and all black people are liars (sarcasm)!

  15. JKR says:

    Oh, whatever! This lawsuit is so stupid. Each season had a pretty diverse cast and there were always at least 2-3 black contestants. Tamrya Gray, EJ Day, Justin Guarini, Ruben, Kimberley Locke, Trenyce, Charles Grigsby, Fantasia, LaToya London, JHUD, George Huff, Vonzelle, Anwar, Nadia Turner, Nikko Smith, Paris Bennett, Mandisa, Lisa Tucker, Jordin, Melinda, Lakisha Jones, Brandon Rodgers, Syesha, Chikezie , Lil Rounds, Michael Lynche, Jacob Lusk, Naima, Josh Ledet, DeAndre, Jermaine Jones, Candice, Amber, Burnell, Curtis.

  16. liz says:

    I think the fact that there’s 10 people involved, that their case should be listened to and maybe some investigation should happen. If nothing wrongful was done, then no harm no foul.

    • Mary says:

      Except it cost money and the the court system is so backed up with outlandish law suits that it is a waste of time. If any one of them had a case, personally, they should of filed suit separately at the time it happened. I always told my kid every action has a reaction could be positive or negative. The fact is they did have a criminal background and it came back to bite them in the behind. Time to grow up, face the consequences and move on to a productive life. No matter what the race try working an honest day living and stop milking the system for a free ride. The fact that Clark is involved invalidates the lawsuit for me. This is not the first one he filed. He is looking for a quick payoff.

  17. j says:

    So this is conflicting…they say that only African Americans were asked about their legal past yet their past was uncovered after some of them were already in the competition. And from a legal standpoint, America judges to a point and not the celebrity judges. So the show will just say they did make the decision.

  18. Scott says:

    Next up: Vanilla Ice and Eminem suing some black producer because their rap careers aren’t as great as they thought they should be.

  19. This is what happens when the media does nothing but sling the word “racist” around the clock. People are taught that any time a minority doesn’t get their way, then it HAS to be racism.

    • unicornwasp says:

      Congratulations on being the perfect example of a clueless white person.

      • TBH says:

        How do you know he’s white? Anytime anyone who’s a minority doesn’t get their way these days it’s racism or discrimination of some kind. I don’t run around and say ‘Oh they didn’t hire me cause I’m Jewish’ “I didn’t get that apartment because the landlord is anti-Semitic’. Maybe someone else was better qualified for the job, maybe someone had a better credit rating and got the apartment.
        These days it seems like the first thing people yell when they can’t get their way is “It’s cause I’m black/Hispanic/Asian/Muslim/Jewish isn’t it?” it’s gotten so bad that when something really discriminatory happens people don’t care because they hear it all day every day.

  20. Given the fact that they were all disqualified because of contract issues that they chose not to disclose they don’t really have anything here.

  21. TobyG. says:

    How can I avoid being held accountable for my own actions and face the consequences of those actions? I know, crying “racism” always works!

  22. Duchess says:

    I can’t speak for the others but I worked for a Fox station which held auditions in the town where Jaered Andrews lived and he was kicked off because he was charged with assault that resulted in a man’s death. So I think regardless of race that was a pretty valid reason for dismissal.

  23. phyllis says:

    It’s funny how these things keep popping up in life. Well if you treat everyone the same no one would have thing to sue about. Back round check for only blacks, to funny, and just like a racist says I have a black friend. They say, well we have 4 black winners. Not the point. If your going to back round check some, you need to do it for all. Dummies!

    • Winter says:

      Ok first of all it’s background checks. Second they weren’t given background checks, they were asked if they had a criminal record and then lied about it. There is no evidence at this point that white or Latino contestants weren’t asked these questions as well. I would assume that the initial paperwork they filled out would have a question about prior arrests just like any job application. Also just like a job application if you get caught lying you lose the job.

    • Miss Otis Regrets... says:

      Do you have any evidence the white contestants were not given background checks? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
      And people sue for stupid stuff all the time. That proves nothing.

  24. lizbeth says:

    I guess the thing I’m most surprised about in all this is that Chris Golightly is black.

  25. Memae says:

    First of all, this is so idiotic it makes me scream.

    Second of all, there is no doubt that racism STILL exists in America. Don’t let this dumb case make you think otherwise. We don’t need to turn this into an argument about how “certain group of people” always “cry racism” when convenient because that is not true.

  26. GS says:

    This is such a ridiculous claim! There have been MANY black contestants who made it to the voting rounds and gone on to have pretty good careers even if they didn’t win. I really am sick of the ‘race’ card being pulled by blacks when things don’t go their way which does happen whether you want to admit it or not cause we see it every single freaking day in this country. This particular group of blacks are talentless idiots who LIED and were caught in said LIES and now want an easy pay day without earning it. Another reason I don’t watch Idol anymore. For every good singer they put out there, they also launch a bunch of semi talented people into their 15 minutes of fame from which they never want to disappear!

    • missnisha6849 says:

      There is no need to conflate “Pulling the race card” with this particular situation. That’s a different argument for another thread, and isn’t helpful in this discussion.

      Having said that, these ten idiots suing Idol don’t have a leg to stand on, whatever their ethnicity. Especially Corey Clark, since he’s come after Idol for other unsubstantiated claims over the 12 seasons Idol has been on the air. I have a hard time believing that Freemantle Media did background checks ONLY on Black contestants. It’s in their best interest to screen the finalists that they’re going to spend a lot of money on and promote in front of a worldwide audience. These guys are going to have to accept that their bad choices (and subsequently lying about their background) disqualified them for that chance.

      • Miss Otis Regrets... says:

        They are going for a settlement, I’m sure. I hope Fremantle goes to court and makes them show evidence of the formerly unknown white criminals that weren’t kicked off the show. Because that’s all I’m seeing, they are racist for only kicking off black ex-cons, well show us a white one that wasn’t and you’re golden!

  27. TroyW says:

    If they spent half as much time trying to improve their singing “skills” as they are trying to find a way to sit on their worthless a$$e$ and get something for nothing, they might have been successful by now. How utterly typical to use the race card in lieu of owning up to their own mistakes. If American Idol buckles under and pays them a single dime, I’m through with the show (as are I’m sure everyone else fed up with crap like this)…

  28. marie says:

    Its being said how can it b racist cuz of the previous winners. Lets not forget “AMERICAN” idol AMERICANS vote too..
    What r they guilty of?…… doing whatever it takes to get the ratings it sooo sad..
    _od forbid the show would n about searching and find an American who sings like an angel and inspires the people of the “UNITED” States of America a country maybe even nations, if we were REAL the world
    Yeah who am I kidding no drama yeah right. Too much hype will we ever grow up?

  29. MSD says:

    I think the upset spouts fromt he fact that there were some non-black contestants who had criminal offenses or other shady dealings, and none of them felt smeared, and some of them weren’t ousted.
    Vote for the Worst actually has those type of details on contestants that were packaged to be appealing, or just that no mention of shady history came up explicitly. The main one that comes to mind is Scott Savol. He had charges of domestic violence against him, and was not ousted. In fact, he made it pretty far in the competition, despite being pretty lousy amd not being a judge favourite.

  30. Dayrah says:

    Even if this was true (ha!) how is it worth $25 million for each person? That’d be like me applying for a job and when I didn’t get it saying that the people were racist and now they owe me millions for the money I could have made at that job if they had hired me. Except this is different because to be a singer you have to have talent and so much more to even make a dime. They’re not going to be able to prove they lost out on any money when they got kicked off Idol.