For Nigel Lythgoe, the best defense is not so much a good offense as a horrible memory.
The former American Idol producer, who over the summer defected to So You Think You Can Dance, is speaking out about last month's apparent suicide of onetime Idol contestant and Paula Abdul admirer Paula Goodspeed, denying that show producers intentionally placed Abdul in an unsafe situation in exchange for a few minutes of entertaining footage.
But while Lythgoe told People that it "would not enter our heads" to put Goodspeed or anybody in the audition room "that you believe is a danger to herself or a danger to Paula," he could not recall whether Abdul had, as she claims, voiced extreme concern about the girl.
On an interview with Barbara Walters on XM Satellite Radio Monday, and addressed again during an interview with David Letterman on Wednesday, Abdul said she had begged producers not to allow Goodspeed to audition for the fifth season, telling them she recognized the girl's name and that she had a restraining order out against her.
"I said, 'This girl is a stalker of mine. Please do not let her in.' Everyone knew. I was shaking," she told Barbara Live!
Lythgoe, however, said he did not recall the warning and that producers were simply bringing her in as a "huge fan" of Abdul's and for the entertainment value of Simon Cowell being able to poke fun at the seemingly harmless infatuation.
"This is three years ago," he told People. "I honestly can't say I remember the conversation. If Paula said that's what she said, I believe her.
"This is what we knew: She was a great fan, she was a lovely girl. And a great fan of Paula."
Lythgoe told much the same thing to Access Hollywood, saying he "can't go back and deny that didn't happen" and admitting that producers relished the opportunity to give Cowell "great material."
Still, Lythgoe said that even if producers were warned, it was unfair to both the show and Goodspeed's family to somehow connect her death with her televised, and much-ridiculed, audition.
"That was three years ago," he said. "To sort of tie that to an audition on American Idol, I find...upsetting, and for it to continually be raked over, I find upsetting for her family."
Of course if Abdul feels the need for more recourse, she could always take the advice of Letterman—a man who is familiar with the finer points of dangerous stalkers—and "sue these baboons."
"Forget what you're making on the show; this could be the biggest lawsuit in the history of television…I'll be codefendant."