One of America's biggest singing television programmes faces being sued for racism after nine former contestants have mounted a legal challenge claiming they were forced to leave the show.
The nine singers in question said the production company of American Idol plotted to remove them from the competition in a bid to boost ratings.
News broke of the controversy when New York attorney James Freeman asked the U.S Equal Opportunity Commission for permission to sue American Idol and FOX on behalf of his clients.
Freeman's legal challenge is backed by Jaered Andrews (season two), Corey Clark (season two), Donnie Williams (season three), Terrell Brittenum (season five), Derrell
Brittenum (season five), Thomas Daniels (season six), Akron Watson (season six), Ju'Not Joyner (season eight) and Chris Golightly (season nine).
The lawyer said he became concerned about the show's treatment of black contestants after popular competitor and 'gentle giant' Jermaine Jones was disqualified in March last year over an undisclosed criminal record.
As part of their application, contestants are asked to disclose whether they had ever been arrested.
Freeman reportedly questions whether it was legitimate for producers to ask potential competitors to disclose their criminal records, claiming this violated employment law as applicants were essentially applying for a job.
He added that American Idol had humiliated black Idol contestants on national TV - making them unfairly appear to be violent criminals, liars and sexual deviants - and creating 'destructive stereotypes'.
Freeman's investigation also claimed the contestants who had been disqualified for their criminal records had not been actually been convicted at the time of their expulsion from the programme.
He said: "Yet their personal and professional lives remain permanently and severely impaired by [the show's] continuing violations of our nation's laws."
Responding to the claims, one of the producers, Nigel Lythgoe said he was 'shocked' by what he said were 'ridiculous' allegations.
He told TMZ: "We treat everybody the same ... no matter the race, religion or sex. I think we've always had a fantastic share of talent from contestants both black and white ... I don't think I've ever seen racism at the show."
American Idol returned last week with new judges Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey, joining veteran judge Randy Jackson. Despite some outstanding contestants, the show has been dominated by the on screen fighting between rapper Minaj and diva Carey.