Producer sued by Paula Abdul exits dance TV show | Inquirer

Producer sued by Paula Abdul for sexual assault exits dance TV show

Nigel Lythgoe denies Paula Abdul's allegations that he sexually assaulted her while she was a judge on 'American Idol'
/ 07:00 AM January 07, 2024

LOS ANGELES – Nigel Lythgoe is stepping down as a judge on the program “So You Think You Can Dance” following a sexual-assault lawsuit filed by former judge Paula Abdul and additional allegations from two anonymous women, according to media reports.

Lythgoe, 74, denied Abdul’s allegations that he sexually assaulted her while she was a judge on “American Idol” and he was the show’s executive producer, and again when the two worked together on “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Paula Abdul in wearing black suit in sexy pose on floor

Singer/dancer Paula Abdul filed court papers accusing former “American Idol” executive producer Nigel Lythgoe of “multiple sexual assaults” and harassment. Image: paulaabdul/IG

“I have informed the producers of `So You Think You Can Dance‘ of my decision to step back from participating in this year’s series,” Lythgoe said in a statement Friday to Variety.


“I did so with a heavy heart but entirely voluntarily because this great program has always been about dance and dancers, and that’s where its focus needs to remain. In the meantime, I am dedicating myself to clearing my name and restoring my reputation.”

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On Tuesday, two additional women – identified only as Jane Does – sued Lythgoe for allegedly sexually assaulting and harassing them when they were contests on the short-lived “All American Girl” reality show, which aired for one season in 2003, TMZ reported.

Both women were contestants on the show, on which Lythgoe was a producer, and allege he would repeatedly show up on the set, and in dressing rooms, when they were wearing dance costumes … and “openly swatted and groped” their butts.

They also allege the producers, including Lythgoe, hosted a party to celebrate the end of filming … but as the party ended, they claim he insisted one of the women ride with him back to the studio where everyone else in the cast was going.

The second woman said she insisted on going with them to protect her fellow contestant — but they allege Lythgoe drove them back to his home instead, where he made sexual advances on both of them.

One woman claims Lythgoe lifted her sweater and “engulfed” and tried to kiss her … and she immediately rejected him.

The second woman alleges he got aggressive, pushed her against a grand piano and forced his mouth and tongue on her … all of which she protested.


The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, lists Lythgoe and an unnamed production company as defendants and alleges sexual assault and battery, sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence, TMZ said.

Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Television’s 19 Entertainment, which co-produces “So You Think You Can Dance,” has opened an investigation of Lythgoe, a source told Variety on Wednesday.

Abdul’s lawsuit, filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims she had a strained relationship with “American Idol” producers throughout her time on the show, contending she was paid less than the male judges and subjected to taunts and bullying by show executives and employees.

“During one of `American Idol’s’ initial seasons, while on the road for the show’s regional auditions, Lythgoe sexually assaulted Abdul,” the court documents stated.

“One evening, following the day’s auditions, Lythgoe and Abdul entered the elevator of the hotel where they were staying. Upon entering the elevator, Lythgoe shoved Abdul against the wall, then grabbed her genitals and breasts and began shoving his tongue down her throat.

“Abdul attempted to push Lythgoe away from her and let him know that his behavior was not acceptable. When the doors to the elevator for her floor opened, Abdul ran out of the elevator to her hotel room.”

Abdul was an American Idol judge from 2002 until 2009.

In a statement provided to City News Service following the lawsuit, Lythgoe said,  “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. 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.”

Lythgoe added: “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. But I can promise that I will fight this appalling smear with everything I have.”

He has not commented on the latest allegations.

Abdul, 61, immediately contacted her representatives and told them what had occurred, the court documents said, but she decided “not to take action for fear that Lythgoe would have her fired” from the show.

The court documents also contend Abdul signed a contract in 2015 to appear as a judge on another Lythgoe production, “So You Think You Can Dance.” According to the suit, during that time, Abdul accepted what she believed was a professional invitation to attend dinner at Lythgoe’s home to discuss other career opportunities. 

“Toward the end of the evening, however, 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 the court documents.

“Abdul pushed Lythgoe off of her, explaining that she was not interested in his advances, and immediately left Lythgoe’s home.”

Again fearing retaliation, she did not speak out about the incident, according to the court papers. Abdul also contends she witnessed Lythgoe physically grope one of her female assistants.

According to the court papers, Abdul remained silent for years “due to fear of speaking out against one of the most well-known producers of television competition shows who could easily break her career as a television personality.” However, she is “no longer willing to remain silent.”

The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges sexual assault/battery, sexual harassment, gender violence and negligence.

In addition to Lythgoe, the suit names 19 Entertainment Inc., Fremantle North America, American Idol Productions and Dance Nation Productions.

Lythgoe, a veteran dancer-choeographer, is a native of Wallasey, Cheshire in England and was married to dancer-director-producer Bonnie Shawe from 1974 to 2010. They have two children. (CNS)

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TAGS: assault, Hollywood, sexual harassment
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