Ex-'Idol' Hopefuls Lean on Stats to Save Racism Lawsuit

Fighting a motion to dismiss, 10 African-American plaintiffs calculate a "less than 1 in a billion chance" that disqualifications on the reality competition series are coincidental.
Michael Becker / Fox
The American Idol season 13 finalists.

Judge Naomi Buchwald might wish to confer with Nate Silver in her chambers.

Ten former contestants on American Idol are suing over alleged discrimination on the long-running reality singing competition show. The original complaint filed in New York was 429 pages long and covered a good amount of ground from "unconscionable Willy Wonka contracts" to allegedly manipulated reality television to support the notion that there was something fishy about the disparate amount of African Americans who were disqualified from competition over the years.

Since being filed eight months ago, the lawsuit has undergone a couple of revisions and is headed towards a judge's determination about whether it should go forward.

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Three weeks ago, the defendants, including Fox Broadcasting, Freemantle, 19 Entertainment and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, brought a motion to dismiss that argued that the allegations were too late, barred by the First Amendment and that some of the plaintiffs lacked standing. Further, the defendants firmly denied that Idol is a rigged contest, that it was hardly falsely advertised and that contestant agreements are valid. Read the full motion to dismiss here.

Now comes the plaintiff's entertaining lawyer, who about midway through an opposition brief gets very statistically wonky.

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Specifically, the plaintiffs hope to show that 17 publicly disqualified Black "Golden Ticket" holders are unimaginable by the law of probabilities. Here's a taste:

"The null hypothesis, i.e., that Public-DQ Plaintiffs' disqualifications from American Idol were random decisions; logically must be refuted because there is less than 1 in a billion chance that the gross disparity ratio evidenced here by the public disqualifications would have resulted from non-biased application of the American Idol contest rules. In other words, the 7- Sigma event presents a statistical significance so great that the Court may infer a prima facie case of racial discrimination as a matter of law with absolute 0% chance of error. The burden of production therefore shifts to Defendants."

Here's the full opposition. Over to you, Judge Buchwald.

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