UPDATE (10 p.m. ET): Benardo e-mailed to tell us that he’s seeking $300 million in damages, not $300,000 as initially reported. The post is corrected below, along with a “no comment” from a show rep.
Ian Benardo, who auditioned for “Idol” in 2007 — you may (or may not) remember his version of Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” — has filed a complaint for workplace discrimination with New York’s Division of Human Rights.
In a fax sent to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Benardo claims he was asked to appear on the “Idol” finale along with a few other memorable bootees as part of comedian Dane Cook‘s farewell to Cowell. He then grabbed the microphone from Cook, proclaiming a “Kanye moment” and rambling for a few seconds about how he was replacing Cowell before the show cut to commercial. (His audition video and his effort on the finale are here.)
In the complaint, Benardo says the “Idol” powers that be “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,” according to the Journal-Constitution. “… 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.”
Based on the word “audition,” we’re assuming Benardo is referring to his 2007 tryout, which took place in New York. The complaint also says other “Idol” employees used anti-gay slurs and that the show (he calls it “the workplace”) “was permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, insults and hostile and offensive comments that were so severe as to alter my working conditions.” He’s asking for $300 million in damages.
An “Idol” rep says the show has no comment on the claim.
UPDATE: Bernardo tells TMZ that he is “not gonna stand” for the “rampant homophobia” on “American Idol” and that he “is going to bring ‘American Idol’ down.”