"American Idol" is being sued by 10 black former contestants, claiming they were kicked off the show in their respective seasons because of their race, TMZ was the first to report.
The plaintiffs are Season 2's Corey Clark, who was disqualified after it was revealed that he was previously arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery on police officers and his sister, as well as endangering the life of a child; Season 2's Jaered Andrews, who was also dismissed following the discovery of an assault charge stemming from a fatal bar fight; Season 2's Jacob John Smalley, who was eliminated early on in his season; Season 3's Donnie Williams, who was pulled from the show after an arrest for speeding and drunk driving while "Idol" was filming; Season 5's twin brothers Terrell Brittenum and Derrell Brittenum, who were cut after executives learned of an arrest and charges of identity theft; Season 6's Thomas Daniels, who was dismissed after his drunk driving charges and other criminal records came to light; Season 6's Akron Watson, who was kicked off after producers found out about a prior misdemeanor for possession of marijuana, which he claimed producers were made aware of previously; Season 8's Ju'Not Joyner, who claimed he was disqualified from the show because he questioned the contract; and Season 9's Chris Golightly, who was allegedly let go over complications with a former recording contract.
The contestants' attorney, James H. Freeman, claims "Idol" used his clients' history to make them look like "violent criminals, liars and sexual deviants," according to Fox News. He notes that none of his 10 plaintiffs had ever even been convicted of the charges stemming from their arrests. Freeman also notes only black contestants were probed about their pasts, never white contestants.
Season 2's Frenchie Davis, who is African-American, was removed from the show after producers learned that she had previously posed nude for an adult website. She resurfaced eight years later as a contestant on "The Voice." "Idol" also disqualified Season 8’s Joanna Pacitti, a white woman, when it was revealed that she had close ties with two executives at 19 Entertainment, the company that produces the show along with FremantleMedia.
According to Freeman (via TV Guide), producers asking contestants, "Have you ever been arrested?" is a violation of the California employment law since his clients were applying for "employment" with "Idol" and it is therefore illegal to ask about their arrest histories.
Freeman says he started looking into "Idol's" history with black contestants when Season 11 contestant Jermaine Jones was dismissed from the show on-camera in March 2012 for some minor infractions. "I am offended they tried to paint me as a victim of discrimination. I appreciate the experience from Idol and embraced the good and bad from it," Jones told TMZ earlier this year. "I have moved on with my life ... and have not authorized them to include me in the accusations."
TMZ reports that each plaintiff is suing "Idol" and producer Fremantle Media for discrimination and other alleged misdeeds for a minimum of $25 million each. They also want the show to adopt new anti-racism regulations. Fox had no comment on the lawsuit or accusations.
It's worth noting that "Idol" has had four African American winners during its run: Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Jordin Sparks and Season 12's Candice Glover.
Correction: A previous version of this article omitted Season 12 winner Candice Glover, who is also African American.