Nigel Lythgoe denies abusing Paula Abdul as sexual assault lawsuit looms

Lythgoe, Cowell, Jackson and Abdul smile for a photo at the American Idol judges desk
Image caption,Ms Abdul (bottom right) claims that Mr Lythgoe (top left) first assaulted her during an early season of American Idol

By Jacqueline Howard

BBC News

American singer and dancer Paula Abdul is suing British television executive heavyweight Nigel Lythgoe over alleged sexual assault.

Ms Abdul’s lawsuit claims multiple instances of assault while the pair worked together on American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance.

Mr Lythgoe was an executive producer of the singing talent show and a co-judge on the dancing programme.

In a statement to US media, he said he was “shocked” by the allegations.

He insisted the relationship between the two has always been one of “dear – and entirely platonic – friends and colleagues”.

“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,” he said, adding: “I can promise that I will fight this appalling smear with everything I have.”

Ms Abdul alleges the first instance of assault occurred during one of the “initial seasons” of American Idol in the early 2000s, according to court documents seen by the BBC.

The lawsuit claims Mr Lythgoe assaulted her in an elevator while on the road during regional auditions for the popular talent programme.

She was able to escape from her boss when the doors opened, and she immediately informed her representatives from her hotel room, the lawsuit says.

The next occurred over a decade later, Ms Abdul claims, during what documents say she thought was a professional meeting at his home in Los Angeles.

She claims he forced himself on her, and told her they would make an excellent “power couple”, to which she responded by pushing him off and explaining that she was not interested in his advances.

That same year, Ms Abdul claims she witnessed Mr Lythgoe assault one of her assistants during the filming of So You Think You Can Dance in Las Vegas.

The lawsuit also claims Mr Lythgoe “taunted” her by calling her and saying the pair should celebrate because it had been “seven years and the statute of limitations had run”.

Lythgoe smiles at a lectern
Image caption,Mr Lythgoe received an award in LA this month from the British American Business Council for services to charity and entertainment

The court filing states that Ms Abdul has 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 well as professional contracts that “prohibited” her disclosing “anything that might be deemed confidential business information” or “derogatory”.

Ms Abdul’s lawsuit has been filed under California’s Sexual Abuse and Cover Up Accountability Act, which temporarily lifts the statute of limitations in sexual assault cases.

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