Paula Abdul files sex assault claim against 'American Idol' producer Nigel Lythgoe

 December 31, 2023

In a shocking development from the world of show business, entertainer Paula Abdul is filing suit against Nigel Lythgoe, producer of popular television programs American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, claiming sexual assault over the course of their professional involvement, as Entertainment Weekly reports.

Though the conduct at issue is alleged to have taken place years ago, Abdul has filed her complaint under California's Sexual Abuse and Cover Up Accountability Act, which, as the BBC explains, has temporarily lifted the applicable statute of limitations on such claims.

Abdul's claims emerge

The formal complaint, obtained by PEOPLE, was lodged last week in Los Angeles County Superior Court and includes allegations against Lythgoe as well as 19 Entertainment, Inc., FreemantleMedia North America Inc., American Idol Productions Inc., and Dance Nation Productions Inc.

Abdul's claims include sexual assault and battery, sexual harassment, negligence, and gender violence, and they date back to the singer/dancer's earliest days as a judge on American Idol.

As the Daily Mail notes, Abdul's lawsuit claims that the initial instance of sexual misconduct occurred when American Idol was on the road for contestant auditions, with the entertainer asserting that Lythgoe forced himself on her in a hotel elevator.

The second incident is alleged to have occurred several years later, after Abdul agreed to serve as a judge on So You Think You Can Dance, when she visited Lythgoe's home for what she assumed was a professional business meeting.

Abdul accuses Lythgoe of forcing himself on top of her and declaring that the two would make an “excellent power couple,” advances she says she rebuffed.

Ancillary allegations

In her lawsuit, Abdul also accuses Lythgoe of contacting her to engage in taunting commentary about the fact that the statute of limitations on any assault claim she might have against him had run out.

That, Lythgoe allegedly said, was something that the duo out to have celebrated.

The complaint declares, “Throughout her tenure on American Idol, Abdul not only was discriminated against in terms of compensation and benefits as compared to one of the show's male judges and host, [b]ut she was the target of constant taunts, bullying, humiliation, and harassment from Lythgoe and other executives, agents, employees, and/or representatives of the show's producers, 19 Entertainment and Freemantle.”

In addition to all of that, Abdul's complaint claims that she personally witnessed a sexual assault by Lythgoe on one of her assistants.

Lythgoe responds

For his part, Lythgoe has publicly denied the allegations contained in the lawsuit, issuing a statement to American media on the matter, as the BBC noted.

“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,” the TV executive said, adding, “I can promise that I will fight this appalling smear with everything I have.”

Whether a swift and discreet settlement will be reached among the parties to this lawsuit, or a host of unseemly accusations and evidence will emerge over the course of what could prove to be explosive litigation, only time will tell.