Nigel Lythgoe Exits ‘SYTYCD’ Amid Sexual Assault Lawsuits

January 6, 2024 - Music


Nigel Lythgoe Is Exiting SYTYCD Amid Sexual Assault Lawsuits
Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for American Ballet Theatre

Nigel Lythgoe is officially exiting his role as a judge on So You Think You Can Dance in the wake of his multiple sexual assault lawsuits.

“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,” Lythgoe, 74, announced in a statement to Variety on Friday, January 5. “I did so with a heavy heart but entirely voluntarily because this great program 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.”

Lythgoe’s announcement comes two months before the season 18 premiere of SYTYCD, which will feature Allison Holker and Maksim Chmerkovskiy as judges. Fox and Sony Pictures Television’s 19 Entertainment confirmed in a separate statement to Variety that “No decision has been made as to the replacement judge for this season.”

Us Weekly confirmed late last month that Lythgoe, who served as a judge on SYTYCD since its premiere in 2005, was accused of sexual assault in a lawsuit filed by Paula Abdul. In court documents obtained by Rolling Stone, Abdul, 61, claimed that Lythgoe assaulted her multiple times over the years while working together on American Idol and SYTYCD.

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Among her many accusations, Abdul alleged that Lythgoe “verbally insulted and belittled” her prior to taking her American Idol gig and that he continued to bully her during her time on the singing competition series. She also claimed Lythgoe sexually assaulted her in a hotel elevator while traveling for American Idol auditions, though she did not specify when the alleged incident took place.

“Abdul attempted to push Lythgoe away from her. When the doors to the elevator for her door opened, Abdul ran out of the elevator and to her hotel room,” the pop star’s court documents state. “Abdul quickly called one of her representatives in tears to inform them of the assault.”

Lythgoe, for his part, denied Abdul’s accusations. “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 Saturday, December 30, 2023, statement to Us. “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.”

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Helping to find America’s favorite dancer! When So You Think You Can Dance debuted on FOX in 2005, a panel of dance experts and enthusiasts were tapped to seek out the best up-and-coming performers. Nigel Lythgoe, who cocreated the dance competition series alongside Simon Fuller, served as one of the longtime judges since the season 1 premiere. However, […]

He continued, “While Paula’s history of erratic behavior is well known, I can’t pretend to understand exactly why she would file a lawsuit that she must know is untrue. But I can promise that I will fight this appalling smear with everything I have.” (He did not elaborate on what he meant by “erratic behavior” at the time.)

Lythgoe was hit with another sexual assault lawsuit earlier this week. According to multiple outlets, two former contestants of the 2003 competition show All American Girl claimed that Lythgoe drove them to a Los Angeles house, rather than to a studio to meet up with others who worked on the series, after the show had wrapped. It was there one of the constants claimed Lythgoe forcefully tried to kiss her and placed his tongue on her face. The lawsuit reportedly claims the England native groped and smacked the rear ends of multiple All American Girl contestants while filming.

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