US talent show judge Nigel Lythgoe has announced he is stepping aside as a judge on So You Think You Can Dance amid lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault.
Among those making allegations against Lythgoe is Paula Abdul, who claims he groped her breasts and genitals and “began shoving his tongue down her throat” in the early 2000s.
The singer was a judge on American Idol at the time, while Lythgoe was a producer on the show.
In a statement, the 74-year-old Briton confirmed he will not be taking part in the 18th season of So You Think You Can Dance, which is due to begin in March.
Describing his decision, he said: “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 has denied the accusations made by Abdul and said he is “shocked and saddened” – describing her as a “dear” and “entirely platonic” friend.
He added: “While Paula’s history of erratic behaviour 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.”
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Abdul has also alleged that a second assault took place in 2015 when she joined So You Think You Can Dance.
She claims Lythgoe forced himself on her and tried to kiss her during a dinner at his Los Angeles home, but that she pushed him away and left.
Her lawsuit also accused Lythgoe of taunting her about the alleged assaults, saying to her years later “they should celebrate” as “the statute of limitations had run”.
Abdul filed the claim a few days before a California law expires allowing people a one-year window to sue over sexual abuse claims that have exceeded the legal time limit.
Lythgoe was a judge on ITV show Popstars – which created the band Hear’Say – and was nicknamed “Nasty Nigel” after making cutting remarks to contestants.