New York attorney James H. Freeman believes his clients were tricked in a cheap ploy to hook viewers and build buzz for the show.
[T]he show has been juicing-up the drama by publicly revealing that some black contestants have arrest records – and then using that as an excuse to boot them off the show.
What brought this to Freeman’s attention you might ask? In march, 2012, Jermaine Jones was disqualified from Season 11 for “failing to tell the producers about outstanding warrants out for his arrest.” At the time many critics spoke up, accusing FOX and American Idol of staging the disqualification for ratings. Seeing this prompted Freeman to look more closely at past seasons, and he found that the show’s producers had publicly disqualified only 9 other people from the show … and they all happened to be black.
In a letter obtained by TMZ which was sent to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Freeman, who has to file with the EEOC and get permission before bringing a suit against Idol and FOX, said,
[T]he “cruel and inhumane” scheme works like this: Producers ask contestants if they have ever been arrested. Then they sic private eyes on those who admit they have — and use the info to paint them as “violent criminals, liars and sexual deviants.”
It is a violation of California employment law to ask an applicant about their arrest history, and Freeman asserts that since his clients were, in essence, applying for employment with American Idol, the show’s producers were forbidden from asking questions pertaining to that subject.
Although FOX did not respond to inquiries, American Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said the accusations were “ridiculous.” He told TMZ,
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.
However, Freeman argues that the information which was obtained through this illegal line of questioning, added to records obtained by private investigators working for the show, which was then used to humiliate the black contestants on national TV, perpetuates “destructive stereotypes” about black men.
Photo: American Idol Logo/FOX Broadcasting