Jan 8, 2024 2 min read

Lythgoe out at ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ after Paula Abdul sexual assault allegations

TV executive Nigel Lythgoe steps down as a judge on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ after being accused of sexual assault by Paula Abdul

Lythgoe out at ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ after Paula Abdul sexual assault allegations

TV executive and talent show judge Nigel Lythgoe has announced he won't appear on the judging panel for the next series of 'So You Think You Can Dance' in the US after he was accused of sexual assault in a new lawsuit filed by Paula Abdul.

He said in a statement: "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. I did so with a heavy heart but entirely voluntarily because this great programme 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".

After appearing as the obligatory nasty judge on the 'Popstars' talent show in the UK back in 2001, long-time TV exec Lythgoe formed an alliance with Simon Fuller's 19 Entertainment, working as an executive producer on 'American Idol' and the US version of 'So You Think You Can Dance', on which he was also a judge.

Abdul had stints as a judge on both programmes. And in a lawsuit filed late last month, she alleges that Lythgoe sexually assaulted her in the early 2000s while she worked on 'Idol' and again in the mid-2010s when she was a judge on the dancing talent show.

According to the New York Times, Abdul alleges that, during one of the early seasons of 'Idol', Lythgoe "shoved her against the wall of a hotel elevator, grabbed her genitals and breasts and began 'shoving his tongue down her throat'". She tried to push Lythgoe away and then "when the elevator doors opened, she ran to her hotel room and called one of her representatives in tears".

When subsequently working on 'So You Think You Can Dance', she had a meeting with Lythgoe at this home during which, her lawsuit claims, he “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’. Abdul pushed [him] off of her, explaining that she was not interested in his advances, and immediately left [his] home".

Responding to Abdul's legal filing, 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".

According to US media reports, Lythgoe has also been sued over allegations of sexual assault by two former contestants on another talent show he worked on, a short-lived 2003 series called 'All American Girl'.

Both lawsuits have been instigated under California's Sexual Abuse And Cover Up Accountability Act which - like New York's Adult Survivors Act - allows new litigation to be filed over alleged incidents of sexual abuse that would usually be barred by the statute of limitations. The deadline for submitting lawsuits under the Californian law was the end of last month.

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