American Idol auditioner Ian Benardo sues for $300 million, claims anti-gay discrimination

American Idol 6 auditioner and season nine finale performer/crasher Ian Benardo is suing the show for $300 million, claiming that he was the victim of anti-gay harassment and discrimination. He told TMZ that he wants to “bring American Idol down” because show employees called him a “fag” and “homo,” among other things. He says his on-stage “Kanye moment” while Dane Cook was performing was encouraged by producers who wanted him to act gay.

In the lawsuit, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Ian and/or his lawyers write that the show

“exploited my non-conforming appearance and sexual orientation. They did this by directing me to ‘gay it up’ in any appearance I made on camera… Although characterized as an ‘audition’ to the public at large, in fact, I was and was paid as an employee of respondents for each appearance. … The workplace was permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, insults and hostile and offensive comments that were so severe as to alter my working conditions and create an environment that was abusive and ultimately threatening to my safety.”

Three and a half years ago, he said on Larry King Live that the show was a “great experience” where he “got publicity and everything.” Coincidentally, on that same show, a season five contestant revealed that the contract basically says the show will hurt contestants’ feelings.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.