Controversial Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte is joining ABC’s Dancing with the Stars for Season 23, the network confirmed this morning when it unveiled the rogues gallery of celebrity competitors on Good Morning America.
Presidential politics is bleeding over into ABC’s hoofer competition. Former Texas governor and GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry has signed up to tap dance on a different stage. Perry was early Donald Trump flotsam, dropping out of the race after just 100 days, insisting “the conservative movement has always been about principles, not personalities” – which, as it has turned out: not so much.
Lochte, this morning told GMA he is now “not sure” if he would call his headline-grabbing pee break at a gas station in Rio a robbery, an extortion, or just paying up for the damage he caused when he ripped a poster off the wall after pissing in the bushes. Fortunately, Lochte is not the only representative of the U.S. Olympics team attached to the latest iteration of ABC’s reality series. Laurie Hernandez, the 16-year-old Olympic gymnast who had a much better time in Rio than did Lochte, taking home gold and silver medals, is making a bid for the Mirror Ball trophy.
Other sports figures competing in the fall: former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson and Indy race car driver James Hinchcliffe.
Perry is not the first politician to take a stab at Dancing victory; House Majority Leader Tom DeLay paired up with Cheryl Burke back in ’09. He had time on his hands, having left Congress in ’06 after a Texas Grand Jury indicted him on money laundering charges tied to campaign contributions. DeLay did not last long on Dancing, dropping out due to foot stress fracture.
Rounding out this year’s crop of celebrity dancers: Brady Bunch’s Maureen McCormick, actress Marilu Henner, Amber Rose, rapper/reality star Vanilla Ice, R&B singer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, The Fosters’ alum Jake T. Austin, Little Women: LA’s Terra Jole, and country music singer/actress Jana Kramer.
The semi-annual orgy of Dancing staffing speculation got consumed this month with word Lochte, Olympic gold medalist and Rio Public Enemy No. 1, would join the celebrity dance class. And even that Dancing storyline topped itself with word last week that Rio authorities had charged Lochte with falsely reporting a crime and the 12-time Olympic medalist would be summoned to Rio where, if convicted, he could face one to six months in jail.
Lochte said this morning the past two weeks have been “the lowest part of my life.” Asked this morning if he would have to actually return to Rio, Lochte said “I have a great team and they’re dealing with all the legal issues” adding “we’re just trying to get this over with. It’s been dragged out way too long.” On GMA, the thirty-something swimmer blamed “the media” for taking the incident “to a whole new level” and complained he “wants to put this behind” him and “move forward,” assuring viewers “the rest of the world wants this too.”
Lochte’s Rio troubles started when he told “the media” – specifically, NBC’s Today show host Billy Bush – that he and three other U.S. swimmers were pulled over by robbers, one of whom put a gun to his head. Lochte later amended some details in a subsequent interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, saying they’d been stopped at a gas station and the gun wasn’t up against his head, but stuck with the essential point that a man pulled a gun on them and demanded money. Rio cops, however, threw a news conference at which they said their investigation concluded the U.S. swimmers vandalized the gas station bathroom and a poster, and peed on some bushes, after which a security guard demanded the athletes pay for the damage. The guard pulled his gun when Lochte in particular became loud and argumentative, authorities said. Video from the station did not back up the bathroom trashing part, however. Lochte gave yet another interview to Lauer, saying he he had “over-exaggerated” his report because he was still intoxicated when he talked to Bush, and apologized. The flap cost him at least four endorsement deals.
Season 23 will see the return of pros Derek and Julianne Hough, who last appeared in 2015. Derek, a six-time Dancing champ, will be back as a dancer, while Julianne will serve as a judge. Derek took to Instagram in advance of this morning’s GMA unveiling to say he will still participate in NBC’s live musical Hairspray in December, but plans to start rehearsing Singin’ in the Rain on Broadway got delayed “because there simply isn’t a theater available.”
Also returning is pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy, He last appeared in 2014 when he and Olympic ice dancer Meryl Davis won the mirrorball trophy in Season 18. And Burke is back, after leaving the show in 2014.
Julianne Hough, a former pro dancer on the show, is expected to be joined at the judge’s table by Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli and Len Goodman, who judged with Hough the past two iterations of the ballroom dance competition series.
Chmerkovskiy broke the news of his return on ABC’s Good Morning America, which has been ABC’s Dancing news clearinghouse for years. ABC’s been mum on all casting issues with regard to the primetime dance program, per usual, so as to have a big a reveal as possible on GMA.
Here are the new season’s dance pairings:
Cheryl Burke with Ryan Lochte
Maksim Chmerkovskiy with Amber Rose
Valentin Chmerkovskiy with Laurie Hernandez
Emma Slater with Rick Perry
Derek Hough with Marilu Henner
Artem Chigvintsev with Maureen McCormick
Sasha Farber with Terra Jole
Witney Carson with Vanilla Ice
Lindsay Arnold with Calvin Johnson
Jenna Johnson with Jake T. Austin
Allison Holker with Babyface
Sharna Burgess with James Hinchcliffe
Gleb Savchenko with Jana Kramer
The new season of Dancing With The Stars premieres Monday, September 12.