updated 05/21/2008 AT 11:00 AM ET
•originally published 05/13/2008 AT 11:00 AM ET
American Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe is breaking his silence on the controversy surrounding David Archuleta’s father, Jeff – and explaining why he lost his backstage privileges at the Fox show.
“He has been asked not to participate in the choice of music with David or be in the room when David is working out his routines that he wants to sing,” Lythgoe tells Entertainment Weekly. “He’s fine to be in the studio – nothing wrong with that. We just want David to be able to be free like everybody else to get on and do what they want to do.”
Some alleged that it’s unfair that other contestants do not have a similar figure to guide them in their performance choices. Lythgoe explained that it’s important for the remaining contestants to have equal opportunities.
“If that’s fairness, fine,” he says. “But this is more of just the fact of ‘let’s take some pressure away here,’ you know? It’s like anybody appearing in front of their mom and dad. Let’s just open up the pressure cooker, release the pressure, and you just get on and do what you gotta do.”
But Lythgoe was quick to clear up rumors that Jeff Archuleta is a pushy “stage dad.” Said Lythgoe: “What is a stage dad, or a stage mom? It’s someone who’s protective. That’s all.”
Archuleta’s camp also dismissed the “stage dad” talk. David’s vocal coach, Dean Kaelin, told PEOPLE in an email: “David’s dad is just a caring, concerned parent that fortunately has some musical expertise, and some people fear that because of this David receives an unfair advantage.”