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'American Idol'

Accused of RACISM

by 9 Black Ex-Contestants

1/25/2013 7:00 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF

Nine black former "American Idol" contestants -- from various seasons -- are banding together to SUE the show ... claiming they were all FORCED off "Idol" as part of a racist (and illegal) plot to boost ratings. 

TMZ has obtained a letter, submitted to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by NY attorney James H. Freeman -- in which he asks for permission to sue Idol and FOX on behalf of his clients ... who have all appeared on the show: FYI, Freeman is required to file with the EEOC before filing suit.

Corey Clark (Season 2), Jaered Andrews (Season 2), Donnie Williams (Season 3), Terrell Brittenum (Season 5), Derrell Brittenum (Season 5), Thomas Daniels (Season 6), Akron Watson (Season 6), Ju'Not Joyner (Season 8) and Chris Golightly (Season 9).

In his letter, Freeman claims he noticed something fishy about "Idol" when Jermaine Jones was kicked off on March 15, 2012. Producers had claimed Jones failed to inform them about multiple outstanding warrants out for his arrest. 

Freeman claims he conducted an investigation into the show -- and found that producers had only publicly disqualified 9 other people from the show since it first hit the air ... and they all happened to be black.

Freeman now alleges that "Idol" has been conducting a "cruel and inhumane" scheme to exploit and humiliate black contestants for ratings.

According to the letter, Freeman believes the annual "scheme" begins during the background check stage of the show -- when producers ask wannabe contestants the question -- "Have you ever been arrested?"

Freeman claims the question is a violation of CA employment law ... and since his clients were essentially applying for "employment" with Idol, the show was FORBIDDEN from asking contestants about their arrest history.

But Freeman claims ... the ill-gotten information from the question, coupled with arrest records obtained by private investigators working for Idol, were used to humiliate the black Idol contestants on national TV ... and in the process, perpetuated "destructive stereotypes" about black people.

Freeman also claims the show made his clients appear to be "violent criminals, liars and sexual deviants" ... when they weren't.

What's more ... Freeman claims the show has "NEVER once publicly disqualified a white or non-black American Idol contestant in the history of the eleven season production."

According to Freeman, NONE of the contestants who were disqualified from the show based on their criminal backgrounds were convicted of the crimes for which they were charged at the time of their disqualification.

But Freeman adds, "Yet their personal and professional lives remain permanently and severely impaired by [the show's] continuing violations of our nation's laws."

Freeman's letter is the first step towards a lawsuit -- and we're told as soon as he gets the green light from the EEOC, he plans to file the docs in court.

We spoke to "Idol" honcho Nigel Lythgoe ... who tells us he was "shocked" by the "ridiculous" allegations.

He explained, "We treat everybody the same ... no matter the race, religion or sex."

"I think we've always had a fantastic share of talent from contestants both black and white ... I don't think I've ever seen racism at the show."

A rep for FOX declined to comment.

FYI -- "Idol" has had 3 African-American winners in its history -- Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino and Jordin Sparks.


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This lawsuit is going to be thrown out of court.

638 days ago


So these guys are broke have no money found a lawyer to take their non existent case, and hope that American Idol will give them a settlement out of court. What a great country we live in now reality show people do not have to earn a living they can just sue and hope for a settlement to make it all go away.

638 days ago



638 days ago


America voted right on the singing skills and likeability. Sounds like someone is looking for a payday...? I suspect some rat bastard lawyer is behind this issue...

638 days ago


tmz keep spiking the waters
knowing that someone will take the bait
why all of these race stories lately?
well its america these people are allowed to voice their opinion if they feel discriminated against......

638 days ago


Yea I always thought idol was not right. I stopped watching a long time ago

638 days ago


This lawsuit is ridiculous!

638 days ago


Right, so racist someone was given a chance on Korea's edition of the show and then, well...

638 days ago


When is this garbage show gonna be cancelled.

638 days ago

Zombie Whitney Houston    

Who cares. I just can't believe that dumb karaoke show is still on the air.

638 days ago


I'm not familiar with the other contestants but I thought it was totally unfair what they did to Jermaine. He was charged (never convicted) for some petty vehicular violations, AI accepted him with it, sent him home @ one point, took him back and they made it look as if AI was giving him this 'great opportunity then sent him home again. Notice most of the contestants always have a 'woe-is-me sob story. So yeah, I strongly believe AI use these contestants for ratings....the race thing....I'll have to get more info but so far the attorney has a point

638 days ago


oh for f*cks sake.

638 days ago


Racist eh? Tell that to Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Jordin Sparks, Randy Jackson, Nicki Minaj, and Mariah Carey.

638 days ago


Hey, lazy people---GET A JOB like the rest of us!!!!

638 days ago


The headline should read "9 black guys looking for a quick buck without working for it."

638 days ago
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