The details are disturbing. In court documents filed on December 29, 2023, Paula Abdul alleges that during one of the early seasons of American Idol, her then-boss Nigel Lythgoe pushed her against the wall in a hotel elevator, grabbed her genitals and breasts and tried to kiss her. She also claims she was “verbally insulted and belittled” by Nigel in a meeting with execs before she was hired on Idol, was paid less than fellow male judges, and was bullied by Nigel and the show’s production staff. Years later, after she joined Nigel’s So You Think You Can Dance as a judge, the “Straight Up” singer claims that during a dinner party at his home, he forced himself on top of her and tried to kiss her, saying they would make an “excellent power couple.” In both instances, Paula says she remained quiet out of fear of retaliation.

But she’s done remaining silent. “For years this has eaten at her,” a source exclusively tells In Touch. “It’s been soul-crushing. She’s always wanted the truth to come out, and she finally summoned the courage to pull the trigger.” In the suit, Paula, 61, even claims Nigel, 74, once “taunted” her by calling to say they should celebrate that it had been “seven years and the statute of limitations had run.” But under a California act, plaintiffs have a window to file a sexual-assault claim even after the statute of limitations has passed. “Nigel no doubt was blindsided and didn’t see this coming,” says the source. “He’s denying the allegations, but Paula isn’t backing down. She wants justice.”

The day after the lawsuit was filed, Nigel spoke out, saying he is “shocked and saddened” by Paula’s lawsuit. He claims they have “interacted as dear — and entirely platonic — friends and colleagues” for more than two decades. “I want to be clear: Not only are [these claims] false, they are deeply offensive to me and to everything I stand for,” he says, adding that Paula has a “history of erratic behavior.”

Days later, Nigel got more bad news. The former So You Think You Can Dance creator-producer-judge was accused of negligence, sexual assault/battery, sexual harassment, gender violence and intentional infliction of emotional distress by two contestants of the 2003 all-female reality competition show All American Girl. “The new lawsuit seems to support Paula’s case, but she will still have to prove she’s telling the truth,” says the source.

Paula Abdul ‘Wants Justice’ After Accusing ‘American Idol’ Boss of Sexual Assault
Mike Windle/Getty Images

Paula also claims in her lawsuit that she witnessed Nigel groping her assistant while Paula was judging SYTYCD in 2015. “If the assistant testifies against Nigel, that won’t bode well for his case,” says the source. “Paula is extremely specific in the lawsuit about what Nigel [allegedly] did to her and her assistant. Paula is determined to make him pay for what she says he did to her. She may have been afraid to speak up years ago, but not anymore.”

If you or anyone you know has been sexually abused, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). A trained staff member will provide confidential, judgment-free support as well as local resources to assist in healing, recovering and more.

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