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Bristol Palin Battles the DWTS Conspiracy Theories

4 years ago
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There's a voting controversy. Sarah Palin and the tea party may be involved. Twitter and Facebook are abuzz.

Welcome to the semifinals - and the finals - of "Dancing With the Stars"! It's "Dirty Dancing" star Jennifer Grey vs. pop star Brandy. It's Disney star Kyle Massey vs., yes, teen activist (and single mom and Sarah's daughter) Bristol Palin.

That's pretty much the way it stood for Tuesday's elimination round. Grey topped the leaderboard Monday with a perfect 60, followed by Massey with 58 and Brandy with 57. Bristol finished at the bottom for the seventh time of her nine weeks on the show, but with her best scores yet, 53 out of 60.

In the end, Brandy went home Tuesday and Bristol is headed to the three-way finals.

The controversy that's been brewing came to a full boil on Twitter after Tuesday's results show. But Bristol's partner, Mark Ballas, addressed it head-on during rehearsal sessions aired Monday night.

"I hear a lot of people saying the only reason you're getting this far is because of who your mom is, the tea party," Ballas said to Bristol. "What I think is that people are at home, they're thinking that's exactly how I would be."

"I think I'm definitely relatable to the audience out there, and untouched and raw and vulnerable," Bristol said, adding later, "No offense to anyone else, but I'm not fake. . . . I'm not typical Hollywood."

She does come from politics, however, and that's where the voting controversy comes from. Certainly, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate and her friends have used their social media prowess to promote Bristol during a DWTS season that coincided with the midterm elections.

But they aren't the only ones using Twitter and Facebook to promote their favorite dancers this season, according to Annie Barrett, who reports on DWTS for (Entertainment Weekly).

"It could just be a question of how many high-profile celebs (let alone fans) are retweeting the contestants' calls for votes on Mondays. For example, Erin Andrews is always encouraging people to vote for Maks (and Brandy). I'm sure many of her ESPN fans aren't even watching DWTS this season, but if she provides a link, it's that much easier," Barrett said in an e-mail. "After so many seasons, it could be the pros (Our Pros!) who are pulling in just as many votes. Last year I wondered if people voted for Evan [Lysacek, the Olympic gold medal ice skater] because they really wanted Anna [Trebunskaya] to get her first COVETED MIRRORBALL TROPHY. This season, I think people might be voting for Maks . . . just as much as Brandy and her overblown emotions."

Host Tom Bergeron also discounted the Palin political impact on the voting in a Movieline interview published Monday.

"I'm going to put on my political hat," he told Movieline. "I'm a liberal Democrat, and I state that proudly. But I have no patience with my friends who believe there is a conspiracy keeping Bristol on the show. I think Bristol is clearly not the best dancer here, but she's a charming young woman who's shown an incredible growth from week one to this week. If she happens to get more votes for whatever reason, more power to her. If you don't like it, vote for someone else. But that's been the part of the show that's amused me, how quickly people are to seize on conspiracy theories when people aren't involved in the process."

There's also a demographic factor at work on DWTS that benefits Bristol, who outlasted Audrina Partridge of the MTV reality show "The Hills."

"I definitely think Audrina was at a disadvantage compared to Bristol," Barrett said in her e-mail. "Nearly everyone in this country knows that Sarah Palin has a daughter who's also a mother. I've never met a DWTS viewer who knew there was a TV show called 'The Hills.' I'd guess few viewers had ever heard of Kyle Massey, either. I certainly hadn't. But he's endearing and he's trying and he loves to talk about pizza. Audrina had one out of three of those qualities at best."

You can't say Bristol isn't being herself on the show. During rehearsal footage, her "What the . . ." ended with a pointed "bleep." It was soon followed by "I feel like I'm screwed."

Instead, she went on to garner a big hug from judge Carrie Ann Inaba and her best score of 27 for the paso doble.

Then came time for the personal stories before the second round dance of the evening. For Bristol, her parents recollected her playing football as a girl, and the news that she was pregnant at 17 -- news that came just before Palin accepted the vice presidential nomination. It's that spotlight that led to her inclusion on "Dancing With the Stars."

And it may be her mother's star power that's kept her on the show this long -- or the fact that, as Barrett says, "some people might just see her as the normal-person contestant and vote for her."

"The bottom line is that we never have any idea how many votes anyone is getting," Barrett said in her e-mail. "That'll always be ABC's dirty little secret."

And it's a big difference from the votes cast by Americans two weeks ago, counted publicly and with lasting impact from town halls to Congress.

Bristol learned Tuesday that she's one of three who will have a shot at the Mirrorball Trophy.

And if she doesn't win next week? Hey, maybe in another 30 years, Bristol will want to return for a repeat on DWTS. If so, she can only hope she looks as hot and dances as spectacularly at 50 as Jennifer Grey.
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Kyle's mom and brother , Jennifer's husband and daughter, also have frequent cameos. More than Palin because she is not there every week. So what if the conservatives are voting for Bristol.. the black people may be voing for Kyle, so what? Every season there is a shocker.. and every year people say it is FIXED.. How long was Kate Gosselin there? Too long!

November 18 2010 at 11:50 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I have never voted for any "star" on DWTS. Each season I watch the show for pure enjoyment and marvel at how far these stars evolve. However, the politics this season is so apparent. I have wondered why we have to be subjected to listening to Sarah Palin so often this season? The only reason Bristol is dancing (as was revealed during one of the shows) because her father nixed DWTS's invitation. Honestly, I will give Bristol some credit for greatly improving her dance moves (thanks to her partner Mark) but honestly Brandy's performance this week was superb. I was more confident that Brandy and not Jennifer Grey would ultimately win the Mirrorball Trophy. (Brandy and Mak's dance this week was so good that my husband commented it was impossible to know which of the two was the professional!!!) I'm laughing at Tom Bergeron's comments that he doesn't understand his friends' talking about the conspiracy with Palin supporters voting in huge numbers. I guess he is afraid many of DWTS followers are awfully turned off by the politics in plain sight this season. The money per episode is a nice sum- why wouldn't "mama" Palin want to stabilize her daughter and grandson's income especially considering Bristol has no formal education and better paying jobs for the twenty something generation are hard to secure. I knew when Audrina and Rick Fox were voted off this season it was unfairly stacked by the tea party supporters voting to help compensate for Bristol's low scores from the judges. At least Bristol has stayed in and not quit the show unlike her mother who couldn't even finish off her term as governor.

November 17 2010 at 8:48 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

The judges often give BP the same scores they give Kyle. Anyone can plainly see that BP can't dance at all let alone as well as Kyle. So while I suspect that the tpartiers are keeping BP on this show, so are the judges with their scores. They should have had the courage weeks ago to score BP accurately. But SP shows up on the show for her fans to ogle. The show is getting ratings, but should BP win, I wonder how many people will watch next year. But then the Palins have more kids. And their are lots of tpartiers.

November 17 2010 at 8:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It is not fair that Bristol Palin's mom is promoting her in every sneaky way she can when the others on DWTS are not getting the same amount of support. This is unfair to the rest. I just found out I had 5 votes instead of one. Could be more than that. This is not known by everyone. The rules should be changed so that everyone gets the same chance. Unfair is unfair.

November 16 2010 at 9:03 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I've watched DWTS from its first season, and the "popularity factor" usually will only take a mediocre celeb just so far before those of us who do vote on the dancing overtake the numbers. But I must say this is the farthest I've seen someone go who can't dance worth spit. There's got to be some kind of organized group who are skewing the vote.

November 16 2010 at 6:07 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

If Bristol wins votes--I'd say that's fair. But, why does her mother have frequent cameos? That is what makes it look like the show is politically motivated. People with this kind of insight into things certainly pick up on it and it does look like someone is trying to sell us Palins, whether you like them or not

November 16 2010 at 4:23 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

She's right that she's not typical Hollywood. But it is called Dancing with the STARS, isn't it?

November 16 2010 at 3:21 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

How is this any different than Emmitt Smith, pretty much buying the title because of his "star power." His ties to the NFL fans made the difference, even though Mario Lopez was a FAR superior dancer. That's what's wrong with these shows. If the public can vote, the result has less to do with talent and more with popularity.

November 16 2010 at 1:49 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Chuck's comment

I totally agree. Dancing With The Stars has too often caved in to a popular contestant rather than the mopst talented. I was extremely angry when Mario Lopez lost to an obviously inferior stiff-can't move athlete who anyone could see plain and simple couldn't dance. Mario could and did run circles around him. Needless to say, I am very happy to see a deserving dancer actually won the Mirrorball Trophy-go Jennifer Grey!!!

November 27 2010 at 8:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
janice blodgett

The show has taken on a political twist. First Tom Delay and now all we see are the Palins. Its not a DANCE CONTEST...its a popularity contest on who can get the most people to vote for you even if you don't deserve to be there. Bristol Palin doesn't hold a candle to the other's and why all these pretense. Brandy never danced before either....she was a singer. The show needs to stop being political and be a real-dance contest....forget the public.

November 16 2010 at 4:36 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

"I think I'm definitely relatable to the audience out there, and untouched and raw and vulnerable," Bristol said, adding later, "No offense to anyone else, but I'm not fake . . . I'm not typical Hollywood." She is sounding more and more like her phoney mother.... I wonder how much Sarah Palin is paying that show to keep her daughter on there. She sure isnt still there because she has talent...

November 16 2010 at 4:35 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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