“Dancing with the Stars” pro Valentin Chmerkovskiy has been sued on behalf of a teenaged girl with Down syndrome whose image he had posted on social media in a commentary on childhood obesity.
According to TMZ.com on Jan. 29, the lawsuit alleges defamation, emotional distress and invasion of privacy. It asks for damages of $6 million from Chmerkovskiy, $600,000 from the photographer who shot the image and $6 million from CBS News, which reposted that preexisting meme.
Chmerkovskiy — who took first place on “Dancing with the Stars” season 20 last year, paired with actress-singer Rumer Willis — has not responded on social media to the lawsuit. GossipCop.com said Chmerkovskiy’s representative did not return a request for comment.
Nashville ABC affiliate WKRN reported on Jan. 11, Chmerkovskiy, 29, ran a since-deleted post on his Facebook page with a meme of an overweight child and the text “Letting your kid become obese should be considered child abuse.” The dancer captioned it with a message saying he agreed and that “being negligent when it comes to their nutrition is a crime.”
The photo, however, was of a Robertson County, Tennessee, child with the developmental disorder Down syndrome. Stephanie Mitchell, who said her 16-year-old daughter Skylar Eden was 9 or 10 when the photo was taken by an unknown party, told WKRN, “I couldn’t believe it when I saw it; makes me wonder what kind of people are out there. It makes me sick.” Hypothyroidism associated with the genetic condition often leads to obesity, according to the National Down Syndrome Society.
TMZ said that according to the suit, Mitchell sent multiple emails to Chmerkovskiy asking him to remove the post, and that he responded with a post saying, “I am truly sorry for the lack of sensitivity . . . You’re handicapping your kid, and they’re defenseless.”