Beauty pageant moms sue over talk show fracas

Tue Jun 22, 2010 12:55am EDT

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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The mothers of some beauty pageant contestants say they were tricked into appearing on a TV talk show and then accused of physically and sexually abusing their children.

Five women are claiming in a new lawsuit filed in Illinois county court that the Tribune Broadcasting Co. and producers of "The Big Willie Show" fraudulently induced them to appear by claiming the show would portray them in a positive light. The talk show appears on WGN in Chicago and is hosted by Bill Cunningham.

On June 11, the moms allegedly were filmed getting ready for a pageant. The next day, they arrived at the studio for the show's taping. Then came the surprise allegations as the studio audience allegedly verbally accosted the plaintiffs. Then it got even weirder.

According to the complaint, the children were backstage as the mothers suffered the wrath of the studio audience. Cunningham then wanted to bring the children out. Unfortunately, they had gone missing.

The mothers searched the greenroom. They say they eventually found their children as one of the show's producers "intentionally touched (a child) in an unwanted fashion."

The mothers refused to go back out. Producers then "began kicking in the door to the greenroom in an attempt to force the plaintiffs back on stage after the plaintiffs had locked themselves in a room to protect their children," according to the complaint.

The women are now suing Tribune, Cunningham, the producer and others for battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent misrepresentation, and violating their rights of publicity. They demand at least $50,000.

The episode was one of the first of the new "Big Willie Show," being advertised by WGN as filling the void of Jerry Springer's departure. In fact, according to the show's web site, Springer's old staff is working on the show.

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