LOS ANGELES — Paula Abdul accused former “American Idol” producer Nigel Lythgoe of sexually assaulting her while she was a judge on a reality competition show in the early 2000s, according to a newly filed lawsuit.
In the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles on Friday, Lythgoe is also accused of sexually assaulting Abdul after she left “American Idol” and became a judge on Lythgoe’s other competition show, “So You Think You Can Dance.”
The Associated Press generally does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly, as Abdul did.
In a statement Saturday, Abdul’s attorney, Douglas Johnson, applauded the singer and dancer for speaking out publicly.
“This was clearly a difficult decision to make, but Ms. Abdul knows that she stands both in the shoes and on the shoulders of similarly situated survivors and is determined to see justice served,” Johnson said.
Lythgoe said in a statement that he was “shocked and saddened” to hear the allegations made by Abdul, whom he considered a “dear” and “purely platonic” friend.
“While Paula’s history of erratic behavior is well known, I cannot fully understand why she would bring a lawsuit that she should have known was not true,” Lythgoe said in a statement. “But I can promise that I will fight this terrible slander with everything I have.”
The lawsuit says Abdul remained silent for years about the alleged assaults out of fear of retaliation from “one of the best-known producers of television game shows.”
Prior to “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” where Lythgoe served as a judge for 16 seasons, he produced the British show “Pop Idol,” which became a global franchise that included iterations in the United States. Abdul.
According to the lawsuit, the first sexual assault occurred while Abdul and Lythgoe were on the road to film auditions for the previous season of “American Idol,” which premiered in 2002.
Abdul said Lythgoe groped her in their hotel elevator after a day of filming and “began sticking his tongue down her throat.” When the elevator doors opened, Abdul pushed him and ran to his hotel room.
“Abdul tearfully called one of his representatives to inform him of the attack,” the lawsuit states, “but ultimately decided not to take action out of fear that Lythgoe would get him fired from American Idol.”
Abdul, a Grammy and Emmy award-winning performer, starred as a judge in the first eight seasons and left in 2009.
In 2015, Abdul was a judge on the show “So You Think You Can Dance” with Lythgoe.
Around that time, Abdul claimed in the lawsuit that Lythgoe forced himself on top of her and tried to kiss her during a dinner at her home. Abdul said he pushed Lythgoe again and immediately left.
Abdul left the reality show after two seasons. He has not worked with Lythgoe since.
The lawsuit also accuses Lythgoe of taunting Abdul about the alleged assaults, telling him years later that they “should celebrate” because “the statute of limitations was up.”
Abdul filed the lawsuit days before the Dec. 31 deadline for a California law that gives victims a one-year period to file lawsuits over sexual abuse allegations after the statute of limitations expires.
More than 3,700 legal claims were filed under a similar law in New York that expired last month.