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.

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