Pop icon Paula Abdul has filed a lawsuit accusing American Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe of sexual assault.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles on Friday, claims that Lythgoe sexually assaulted her in the early 2000s both while she was on American Idol and after she left that show and became a judge on Lythgoe’s other competition series, So You Think You Can Dance.
Abdul’s lawyer Douglas Johnson issued a statement on Saturday that said, “It was clearly a difficult decision to make, but Ms. Abdul knows that she stands both in the shoes and on the shoulders of many other similarly situated survivors, and she is determined to see that justice is done.”
ABC News reports, “Lythgoe said in a statement that he was ‘shocked and saddened’ to hear of the allegations made by Abdul, who he said he considered a ‘dear’ and ‘entirely platonic’ friend.”
Lythgoe also brought up Abdul’s history of “erratic behavior.”
“While Paula’s history of erratic behavior is well known, I can’t pretend to understand exactly why she would file a lawsuit that she must know is untrue,” Lythgoe said in the statement. “But I can promise that I will fight this appalling smear with everything I have.”
Abdul’s lawsuit claims that she kept quiet about the assault for so many years due to fear of retaliation by “one of the most well-known producers of television competition shows.”
ABC News reports:
According to the lawsuit, the first sexual assault occurred while Abdul and Lythgoe were on the road filming auditions for an earlier season of “American Idol,” which premiered in 2002.
Abdul says Lythgoe groped her in the elevator of their hotel after a day of filming and “began shoving his tongue down her throat.” Abdul pushed him away and ran to her hotel room when the elevator doors opened.
“In tears, Abdul quickly called one of her representatives to inform them of the assault,” the lawsuit says, “but ultimately decided not to take action for fear that Lythgoe would have her fired from American Idol.”
Abdul left American Idol in 2009 after being a judge for the first eight seasons.
She became a judge on Lythgoe’s So You Think You Can Dance in 2015.
“Around that time, Abdul alleged in the lawsuit, Lythgoe forced himself on top of her during a dinner at his home and tried to kiss her. Abdul said she again pushed Lythgoe away and immediately left,” ABC reports.
The report adds, “The lawsuit also accuses Lythgoe of taunting Abdul about the alleged assaults, saying to her years later that ‘they should celebrate’ because ‘the statute of limitations had run.’”
Abdul has not worked with Lythgoe since leaving the dancing competition show.
The lawsuit was filed just before the December 31 deadline for the California one-year window for victims of sexual assault to file complaints if the statute of limitations had passed.