The American Idol reject who stole the microphone from comedian Dane Cook during the show’s season finale alleges that producers exploited his sexual orientation by telling him to “gay up” his performance, TMZ reported.
Ian Benardo was one of many memorable contestants who returned to the stage to commemorate departing judge Simon Cowell’s final show.
Benardo interrupted Cook as he sang a tribute to Cowell and screamed to the crowd “it’s all about Ian Benardo tonight and I’m going to replace you Simon Cowell … it’s a Kanye moment.”
Benardo said producers encouraged him to be “outrageous” and “gay” in his appearance but that he was forced from the building after his on-stage stunt.
He told TMZ there was “rampant homophobia” on the show, and he plans to “bring American Idol down”.
Benardo claimed Cook threatened him afterward and producers told him Cook wanted to “shove this mic up your a**,” according to legal documents filed Monday with the NY State Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“I took the mic because it was my moment … it was my moment to shine,” Benardo told TMZ about the incident on May 26.
Benardo is suing for emotional injuries and loss of employment opportunities.
This is the second lawsuit connected to one of Cowell’s TV talent shows.
A failed British contestant announced she was suing Cowell for £2.5 million ($3.8 million) because she felt humiliated by the judges of Britain’s Got Talent.
Emma Amelia Pearl Czikai, 54, lasted only three seconds before Cowell and Piers Morgan buzzed her off in the opening bars of power ballad You Raise Me Up.
Cowell labeled her singing voice “horrible” after she took three attempts at the song and millions watched as she left the stage to cries of “off, off, off” from the studio audience.