Paula Abdul is suing former American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance producer Nigel Lythgoe, accusing him of harassing and sexually assaulting her while she was working on both shows, the Washington Post reports. Abdul is also suing the production companies behind the series for negligence, according to court documents filed on Friday.
Abdul claims that Lythgoe harassed and assaulted her during the early seasons of American Idol (which began airing in 2002 with Abdul as one of the original judges) and then many years later when she was a judge on So You Think You Can Dance. Abdul says that after a day of auditions during American Idol’s early seasons, she got in an elevator with Lythgoe, who then “shoved” her against the wall, “grabbed her genitals and breasts, and began shoving his tongue down her throat.” When the elevator doors opened, she says she ran to her hotel room and called one of her representatives to tell them what happened. Per the Post, Abdul says she didn’t speak publicly about the incident because she didn’t want to be fired from the show, on which she was a judge for eight seasons.
About six years after leaving American Idol, Abdul became a judge on So You Think You Can Dance along with Lythgoe, who was both a judge and an executive producer. Abdul says that while working on that show — which she was a judge on in 2015 and 2016 — Lythgoe invited her to dinner at his home to talk about the series. She alleges that toward the end of the dinner, Lythgoe “forced himself on top of Abdul while she was seated on his couch and attempted to kiss her while proclaiming that the two would make an excellent ‘power couple.’” According to court documents, “Abdul pushed Lythgoe off of her, explaining that she was not interested in his advances, and immediately left Lythgoe’s home.”
The New York Times reports that Abdul is also suing Lythgoe for verbal harassment, accusing him of once calling her and telling her that they should celebrate because “it had been ‘seven years and the statute of limitations had run,’” presumably referring to the period of time that had passed since he allegedly assaulted her. (Abdul is suing under a California law that allows people to come forward with allegations outside the statute of limitations.)
In a statement to TMZ, Lythgoe denied Abdul’s allegations, calling them “false” and “offensive.” “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,” Lythgoe said, per the Post. “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.”
On Tuesday, two unnamed former contestants on All American Girl, which aired in 2003 on ABC Family, accused Lythgoe of sexual assault and battery, per the BBC. The women allege that Lythgoe, who was a producer on the show, “openly swatted and groped” them while they were wearing dance uniforms. Rolling Stone reports that in the suit, the women claim that after the wrap party for the series, Lythgoe took an “unusual interest” in one of them, identified only as Jane Doe K.N., and “insisted” that she ride in his personal car from the party to the studio. The other woman, identified as Jane Doe K.G., heard Lythgoe’s invitation and “decided to go with them to ensure her colleague was not left alone,” court documents say. The women claim that instead of driving them back to the studio where everyone else was going, Lythgoe, who is identified throughout the suit by his initials, “took Plaintiffs to a home in Los Angeles. There, Defendant N.L. made sexual advances on Plaintiff K.G and K.N.”
The women allege that they rejected Lythgoe’s advances, but he persisted and at one point “lifted his sweater over Plaintiff K.G.’s head and engulfed her in his sweater, attempting to kiss her and pushing her body close to his,” per Rolling Stone. The suit goes on to say that Lythgoe “pinned Plaintiff K.N. against a grand piano in the house, pushed himself against her body, and forced his mouth and tongue onto her despite her numerous statements telling him not to and attempts to pull her face away from his. When Plaintiff K.G. saw this and protested, Defendant N.L. finally surrendered.” The Cut has reached out to representatives for Lythgoe for comment and will update this post when we hear back.
This post has been updated.