TV producer Nigel Lythgoe said Friday that he is stepping aside as a judge on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ after lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault, including one from Paula Abdul.
Lythgoe is also co-creator and executive producer of the Fox dance competition series, whose 18th season is set to start in March.
“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 said in a statement. “I did so with a heavy heart, but entirely voluntarily because this great programme 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.”
The 74-year-old English-born Lythgoe has been a prominent TV producer for decades in both the UK and the US, working on reality competition shows including ‘American Idol.’
The singer and dancer Abdul alleged in a lawsuit filed Dec. 30 that Lythgoe twice assaulted her — first in the early 2000s when she was an ‘American Idol’ judge and again about a decade later when she was a judge on ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ which she left after two seasons.
Lythgoe called the allegations an “appalling smear” that he intends to fight.
The Associated Press does not generally identify people who say they are the victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly, as Abdul has done.