The folks at American Idol were only giving helpful stage direction when they told a homosexual contestant to “gay it up.” That’s what a lawyer for the talent show says, at least.
In a motion to dismiss a federal harassment suit against the show, attorney Mark Goldberg denies that notorious contestant Ian Benardo was harassed or discriminated against and argues that some of the comments at issue were “acts of acceptance and encouragement.”
Benardo, 30, who has sued the show three times, claimed in his January 2011 suit that producers directed him to act in a stereotypically effeminate way during his performance of “Gloria.” He also says that he was repeatedly called “fag” and “homo,” and that at one point a producer threatened to “shove this mic up your ass.”
Benardo’s three appearances on the show were more memorable for his antics than his talent. He upstaged comedian Dane Cook during Simon Cowell’s 2010 farewell when he rushed the stage and grabbed the microphone.
Goldberg, the lawyer for American Idol, denies that the derogatory comments were ever made. But if they were, he says, they are nothing more than a “few sporadic verbal slurs made on three separate and distinct occasions, each lasting only one to a few days, spread out over the course of four years.” None of these slurs constitute harassment or discrimination, says Goldberg. Telling Benardo to “gay it up,” he said in court papers, “is an act of acceptance and encouragement.”
“That just shows how homophobic that show is,” said Benardo. “For any homosexual to be called a ‘fag’ or a ‘homo’ or being told to ‘gay it up,’ that’s not encouraging.”