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Civil Rights and Plus-Sized Groups Weigh In

1/24/2006 4:32 PM PST BY TMZ STAFF

More civil rights groups are jumping into the fray over allegations that 'American Idol' is not only cruel to gays, but overweight people as well.


TMZ has learned that 'American Idol' judge Simon Cowell's snipes at overweight contestants have drawn the ire of the National Assn. to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA).

"Discrimination against fat people seems to be one of the last acceptable prejudices," says Peggy Howell, NAAFA'S public-relations chairperson. "I have mixed feelings about 'American Idol.' We saw how far Ruben Studdard has gone because of the show. However, Simon Cowell continues to make rude remarks about overweight and obese contestants."

In tonight's episode, Cowell stokes the coals with this comment to a male contestant dressed in green: "You look like the Incredible Hulk's wife."

TMZ first reported last week that the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) had concerns over how FOX's 'American Idol' ridiculed certain contestants on the show based on their gender appearance and presumed sexuality. GLAAD spokesperson Damon Romine says, "The real offense here was in the producer's decision to add insult to injury by turning a contestant's gender expression into the butt of a joke."


Cowell seems to echo the sentiments of GLAAD. He told the television show 'EXTRA' in an interview airing today: "It's the edit. It's the way the show's been edited 'cause I was actually very nice this year."

Indeed, if Cowell's comments were out of line, FOX had the option of keeping them a secret. Instead, FOX chose to showcase the remarks in the heavily-edited show.

Cowell has expressed regret about one comment. In an episode that aired last week, he quipped about a performance by an overweight contestant: "Do we have a bigger stage this year?"

Cowell told 'EXTRA' after that 'Idol' episode aired, "I must admit on that one I did feel bad. I was just in a bad mood."

Bad mood or not, some think there's no excuse for fat insults on the show.

"Simon is always saying that an overweight person doesn't fit the image of what an 'American Idol' should be," NAAFA spokesperson Howell says. "But many Americans are overweight, so the people at 'American Idol' should rethink what a winner can look like."

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) says it believes that 'American Idol' is a prime example of how minority groups are inaccurately portrayed in the media. CORE national spokesperson Niger Innis tells TMZ, "'American Idol' is part of an entertainment culture that often makes blacks look like a bunch of clowns."

Representatives for FOX and 'American Idol' did not respond to TMZ's requests for comment.

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