Paula Abdul filed a lawsuit against former American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance producer Nigel Lythgoe, claiming that he sexually assaulted her. In addition to two alleged incidents, Abdul, 61, also claimed that she was a victim of verbal harassment and bullying from Lythgoe, 74. The producer has denied the allegations, but amid the legal battle, he did step down as a producer from SYTYCD.
On January 2, Lythgoe was also sued by two contestants from the 2003 reality competition series All American Girl. They accused him of “negligence, sexual assault/battery, sexual harassment, gender violence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress,” according to PEOPLE.
Abdul’s lawsuit was filed as part of California’s Sexual Abuse and Cover-Up Accountability Act, which allowed victims to file lawsuits even after the statute of limitations had run out, by December 31, 2023, per Variety. Find out everything you need to know about the singer’s lawsuit here.
Abdul Accuses Lythgoe of Sexual Assault
In the lawsuit, Abdul alleged that Lythgoe sexually assaulted her on two occasions. The “Straight Up” singer claimed that the first instance was during American Idol’s early seasons. Abdul said that Lythgoe had “shoved [her] against the wall, then grabbed her genitals and breasts and began shoving his tongue down her throat” while they were in an elevator, per Entertainment Tonight. She said after the incident, she told her reps, but she didn’t seek any action out of fear of losing her job on Idol.
The second time that Abdul accused him of sexual assault was when she was a judge on So You Think You Can Dance. She said that he had invited her to his home for dinner, and she accepted, assuming that it was a professional meeting. She said that he forced himself on top of her and tried to kiss her, before she pushed him off her and left his house.
“For years, Abdul has remained silent about the sexual assaults and harassment she experienced on account of Lythgoe due to fear of speaking out against one of the most well-known producers of television competition shows who could easily break her career as a television personality and of being ostracized and blackballed by an industry that had a pattern of protecting powerful men and silencing survivors of sexual assault and harassment,” the lawsuit said, according to Variety.
In addition to the sexual assault allegations, she also accused him of verbal harassment and bullying. She also claimed that she was paid less than the male judges and host of the show. She also claimed to have seen him sexually assaulting her assistant by pinning her against a wall and groping her in 2015.
Lythgoe Denies the Allegations
After Abdul’s lawsuit, Lythgoe released a statement, denying the allegations. “To say that I am shocked and saddened by the allegations made against me by Paula Abdul is a wild understatement. For more than two decades, Paula and I have interacted as dear – and entirely platonic – friends and colleagues,” he said.
The producer continued and said that he’d fight the allegations. “Yesterday, however, out of the blue, I learned of these claims in the press and I want to be clear: not only are they false, they are deeply offensive to me and to everything I stand for,” he said. “While Paula’s history of erratic behavior is well known, I can’t pretend to understand exactly why she would file a lawsuit that she must know is untrue. But I can promise that I will fight this appalling smear with everything I have.”
While he denied the allegations, Lythgoe also announced that he’d be stepping down as a producer on So You Think You Can Dance on January 5, 2024. “I have informed the producers of So You Think You Can Dance of my decision to step back from participating in this year’s series. I did so with a heavy heart but entirely voluntarily because this great program has always been about dance and dancers, and that’s where its focus needs to remain. In the meantime, I am dedicating myself to clearing my name and restoring my reputation,” he said in a statement, per Entertainment Weekly.
Abdul Is Also Suing the Production Companies
In addition to the lawsuit against Lythgoe, Abdul has also filed lawsuits against the production companies for American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. She cited negligence as the reason, according to The New York Times.
Lythgoe Is Facing Another Sexual Assault Lawsuit
The two All American Girl contestants sued Lythgoe on January 2 at the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles County. They were identified as Jane Does in the lawsuit, according to PEOPLE, who obtained the court documents.
The lawsuit accused Lythgoe of making unwanted “sexual advances” towards the women after a wrap party. The women reportedly claimed Lythgoe’s behavior was “openly accepted,” as “employees, contractors, representatives, and agents saw this happen but did not act in any manner to condemn the action or prevent it from happening again.”
Allegedly, Lythgoe invited the women to his Los Angeles home and attempted to sexually assault them after the wrap party. He allegedly lifted his sweater over one woman’s head and pinned the other woman against a piano in the house. Both women said in the lawsuit they rejected his advances.