**Trigger Warning: This story contains details of sexual assault.
Nigel Lythgoe, producer of American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance?, is denying recent sexual assault claims made against him by Paula Abdul.
Paula, who served as a judge on ‘American Idol’ from 2002-2009 and also appeared as a judge on ’SYTYCD’, filed a lawsuit against Nigel last week, alleging that she was sexually assaulted by the producer on two different occasions, according to Page Six.
In response to the lawsuit, Nigel told the outlet he plans to prove his innocence in court, calling the claims against him “false” and “deeply offensive.”
“To say that I am shocked and saddened by the allegations made against me by Paula Abdul is a wild understatement,” he said in a statement. “For more than two decades, Paula and I have interacted as dear–- and entirely platonic-– friends and colleagues.”
Nigel said he found out about the allegations through the press, completely “out of the blue,” before then accusing Paula of having a “history of erratic behavior.”
“ … I can’t pretend to understand exactly why she would file a lawsuit that she must know is untrue,” he continued. “But I can promise that I will fight this appalling smear with everything I have.”
According to Paula, one of the instances of sexual assault occurred during an early season of ‘American Idol’ inside of a hotel elevator.
“[Nigel] shoved [Paula] against the wall, then grabbed her genitals and breasts, and began shoving his tongue down her throat,” court documents state. “[Paula] attempted to push [Nigel] away from her. When the doors to the elevator for her door opened, [Paula] ran out of the elevator and to her hotel room. [Paula] quickly called one of her representatives in tears to inform them of the assault.”
The 61-year-old singer and dancer claims the second incident happened while working alongside Nigel on ‘SYTYCD’ between 2015 and 2016 when the producer invited her to his home for dinner, to which she accepted as she believed it had been a “professional invitation.”
“Toward the end of the evening, [Nigel] forced himself on top of [Paula] while she was seated on his couch and attempted to kiss her while proclaiming that the two would make an excellent ‘power couple,’” the court documents state. “[Paula] pushed [Nigel] off of her, explaining that she was not interested in his advances and immediately left.”
Court documents also accuse Nigel of sexually assaulting one of Paula’s assistants in 2015 and verbally insulting and belittling Paula in April 2002. Paula also claims to have felt discriminated against throughout her eight seasons on ‘American Idol.’
According to Paula, she chose not to speak up about the allegations at the time because she feared retaliation from her (now) former boss.
“It was clearly a difficult decision to make, but [Paula] knows that she stands both in the shoes and on the shoulders of many other similarly situated survivors, and she is determined to see that justice is done,” Paula’s attorney, Douglas L. Johnson, told Page Six.
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