‘American Idol’ Exec Hits Back at Paula Abdul’s ‘Intolerable’ Sexual Assault Allegations

FOX Image Collection via Getty Images
FOX Image Collection via Getty Images

Nigel Lythgoe, a former powerhouse producer of American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, accused Paula Abdul of being a “well-documented fabulist” in court documents filed Friday, part of his formal response to her accusation that he sexually assaulted her twice in the early aughts.

In late December, Abdul alleged that Lythgoe had assaulted her twice—once during her stint as a judge on Idol, where she worked from 2002 to 2009, and again as she judged So You Think You Can Dance from 2015 to 2016. In her lawsuit, filed under a California law that allows adults to file sexual assault claims past the statute of limitations, Abdul said that Lythgoe cornered her in an elevator early into her Idol tenure, groping her and “shoving his tongue down her throat” before she was able to escape.

Lythgoe, 74, denied Abdul’s claims at the time, saying in a statement that he was “shocked and saddened” by the lawsuit’s filing, which he claimed he’d been blindsided by.

Nigel Lythgoe Out as Dance Judge After Paula Abdul Sex Suit

“I want to be clear: Not only are they false, they are deeply offensive to me and to everything I stand for,” he said, vowing to “fight this appalling smear with everything I have.”

Friday’s filings appear to be the start of that counteroffensive. In a motion seeking to have Abdul’s complaint dismissed with prejudice, Lythgoe denied her “wild and unsubstantiated” allegations once again, calling them “false, despicable, intolerable and life-changing” and “the worst form of character assassination.”

In addition to painting Abdul as an erratic fabulist trying to “weaponize the climate” of a post-MeToo era, Lythgoe insisted that his onetime colleague has “a long history of telling wild stories that are untethered from reality and are primarily designed to attract attention,” falsely portraying her as “the victim of dreadful misfortune.” Instead, Lythgoe said, it is he “who has been a victim of Abdul’s appalling lies.”

The produced included in his response reams of emails, texts, and social media posts supposedly showing an “adoring” Abdul celebrating their friendship both publicly and in private. “Way to go, sweetheart! You are so deserved!” she allegedly wrote in one 2015 email to Lythgoe. “... Hehehehehehehehehe! I love your guts!!! xo P.”

Lythgoe said that the timing of Abdul’s suit “can only be explained as a ploy for long-ago lost relevance” designed to build up hype ahead of her 2024 tour with New Kids On The Block. “In a matter of minutes, Abdul’s false allegations had a life-changing impact on Lythgoe,” his filing read.

“With little-to-no regard for the truth, without a fair trial, and without Lythgoe having an opportunity to tell his side of the story, and prove the falsity of hers, his life, the lives of his loved ones, and his reputation suffered substantial damage.”

In early January, two more women accused Lythgoe of sexually assaulting them while they were contestants on All American Girl, a single-season reality show he produced in 2003. Days later, Lythgoe announced his exit as producer and judge on So You Think You Can Dance, the competition series he co-created in 2005.

Lythgoe said he’d stepped down voluntarily and “with a heavy heart” in order to keep the show’s focus on its dancers. “In the meantime, I am dedicating myself to clearing my name and restoring my reputation,” he added.

A fourth woman, identified as a Jane Doe, came forward last month to accuse him of sexually assaulting her in his car in 2016. An attorney for Lythgoe told the Los Angeles Times that the incident “never occurred.”

The 18th season of So You Think You Can Dance premiered on Monday, with Jojo Siwa having replaced Lythgoe on the judging panel.

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