‘DWTS’ Judge Controversy Rages, ABC Issues Statement

'DWTS' Judges Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli (Photo: ABC)

'DWTS' Judges Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli (Photo: ABC)

Forget ‘Boo-Gate,’ the ballroom is being besieged by a new controversy.

There’s a showdown every week on the dance floor, but nothing quite like what happened Tuesday night behind the judges’ table between head judge Len Goodman and outrageous judge Bruno Tonioli.

Chelsie Hightower called it the “biggest smackdown in ‘Dancing with the Stars‘ history.” Cheryl Burke would like to see Bruno Tonioli come out and do a Jive himself. And Maksim Chmerkovskiy calls “bulls@*#” on Len Goodman.

What’s behind the ‘Dancing’ free-for-all? Bruno’s harsh comments to booted contestant Michael Bolton after his performance Monday, which lead to a war of words between Goodman and Tonioli on Tuesday’s results show.

Bruno didn’t back down and refuses to apologize, despite the insulted Bolton’s demand for a public apology since.

ABC issued a statement Wednesday: “Bruno’s role as a judge is to give his honest opinions on the quality of the dances he’s judging, which is what he did in this case. While we respect the feelings of our celebrities and dancers, we don’t feel Bruno should be expected to apologize for doing his job.” – ‘Dancing with the Stars’ producers

The drama started when the not-so-smooth crooner delivered a weak Jive to the tune of “Hound Dog.”

In his criticism of Bolton’s routine, Bruno chided, “Michael, I am a dog lover but you make it so hard for me. You should’ve kept the bone and gone back into the doghouse. It was a doggy mess of a Jive. You did it all very, very, very badly. I think this is probably the worst Jive in 11 seasons…I hated it.” The audience booed him and Len went off, calling the comments “unfair.”

But it’s Bruno who ended up in the doghouse, at least with many fans, who thought the mean comments were uncalled for since Bolton had tried his best. Co-host Tom Bergeron gave the offending judge a chance to reconsider his remarks the next night. He joked that Bruno might be in jeopardy with some viewers, to which the judge quipped, “Fox is waiting.”

Bergeron then imparted his two cents, saying that even he thought Bruno was a little hard on Michael Bolton. “Me? I’m the nicest person ever,” Bruno replied, and then added another doggone swipe: “I feel Rin Tin Tin would’ve done a better Jive.” Really, Bruno?

‘Dancing’ Boots ‘Boo-Gate’ … and Bolton

Len sat there tapping his pen waiting to unleash on the little fellow to his left.

“I think our job is to educate and enlighten people and to encourage. And as much as you can think, Tom, that sometimes I am a harsh judge, I always try to show a little bit of positive and maybe then some negative. But just to go in negative, negative, negative, negative I felt was a bit harsh. Yeah, it was too harsh. And then to give the guy a three…”

Bolton had a chance to say his peace after he was the second dancer eliminated from the show, calling the comments “inappropriate” and “disrespectful.”

The cast seemed to agree. We caught up with some of the stars after the show to let them chime in on the controversy:

Brandy: “I just felt that Michael Bolton really handled everything with grace.”

Maksim Chmerkovskiy: “The problem is not in the opinion. Okay? The problem is in consistency. You’re gonna give someone a three, give somebody else that deserves the same score, the same score. I thought this was a comedy hour, especially when Len started talking about praising, he said something about ‘my job is to first try and say positive.’ Come on, really? I’ve been here for 10 seasons and this guy is saying that? Come on! I thought Bruno was the nice one.”

Kyle Massey: “The way I look at it is, they are judges and they need to judge the dance. They don’t know how many hours we put in. [Michael] worked super hard on that dance. All the judges see is the dance.”

Lacey Schwimmer: “They could have been nicer.”

Cheryl Burke: “You can say your negativity, but back it up with something you can go back and work on. And I know it’s a television show and everybody wants to be entertained, but it’s just weird when someone works so hard and they’ve never danced before, and then you give them that type of criticism. If he didn’t work and he was lazy, that’s one thing. Sometimes you just have to watch what you say. I think they have to take into consideration how hard we work. I’d like to see Bruno come out here and do a Jive himself.”

Chelsie Hightower: “It’s unfortunate. I think it may have been one of the biggest smackdowns in ‘Dancing with the Stars’ history. For the situation given, for him trying and him working … I was glad they re-addressed it and gave him a chance to make the situation better, and it’s [unfortunate] that that opportunity wasn’t taken.”

Louis Van Amstel: “I remember with Master P., Len was going at him, but he wouldn’t put on dance shoes, he wouldn’t really rehearse. But Michael Bolton wasn’t like that. He put everything he had into it. Thank God [Tom] said something. I thought it was great. I thought it was one of the best results show ever. [Bruno] didn’t have to apologize, but he didn’t. So good for Michael to speak up.”

Mark Ballas: “I was happy that Len kind of got in there with ‘be constructive.’ Because it’s true, if you don’t dance well, then fine, acknowledge it, but give us something to work on. Be constructive. You shouldn’t be like, ‘You should’ve gone back in the house with the bone and sat down, and I hated it.’ It was a little over the top. I was so proud of Chelsie for how calm she stayed, because if someone said that to [Bristol Palin], I would’ve just like hit the roof! I wouldn’t care who’s watching.”

Do you agree with the ‘Stars’? Was Bruno too mean? Or did Michael Bolton’s ‘Dancing’ disaster deserve the barking commentary? Sound off in the comments below.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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