Val Chmerkovskiy of Dancing With the Stars is in some serious hot water after “mocking” a photo of a girl with Down’s Syndrome.
According to TMZ, the 16-year-old girl, Skylar Eden, is suing the dancing pro, claiming that Chmerkovskiy caused her severe emotional distress by reposting a meme of her and mocking her in his comments.
The New York Daily News reports that court documents reveal the girl was attending a baseball game in 2008 when someone took the picture of her drinking a soda and posted the photo with the caption, “Everything that’s wrong with America.”
— The_News_DIVA (@The_News_DIVA) January 31, 2016
In 2014, the photo became a meme and Val posted it with the caption, “Letting your kid become obese should be considered child abuse.”
The girl claims Val and CBS News, which also posted the pic, is the reason the meme went viral and says she has been humiliated. She is now suing Val and CBS for $6 million each, and the photographer for $600K, alleging defamation, emotional distress, and invasion of privacy. The lawsuit also claims her weight issues stem from her condition.
According to TMZ, the girl’s mother, Stephanie Mitchell, allegedly sent several emails to Val asking him to take down the meme. He proceeded to remove the post and posted an apology.
Think before you meme https://t.co/i8dz9YpZOu
— Page Six (@PageSix) January 30, 2016
“I have no desire to discriminate or shame, I just think people should have a little more knowledge and take more responsibility when it comes to their children’s diet. That’s all. It’s not about what I find beautiful or not, it’s about what’s healthy or not. Anyway, thank you.”
Val went on to criticize the girl’s mom.
“They don’t know better. That’s why you’re there.”
Her sister, Harley, told WKRN that she was shocked when she first saw Val’s post while scrolling through Facebook, a sentiment echoed by the girl’s mother.
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw it; makes me wonder what kind of people are out there. It makes me sick.”
— Zesty Celebrity News (@zesty_celebrity) January 30, 2016
Skylar’s mom told WKRN she believes the dancer should use his celebrity in better ways.
“With his celebrity and popularity, he should be helping kids like this, not bullying them and putting them down.”
Fans of the show took to social media to berate the dancing pro for his actions.
I’m mortified at the actions of Valentin Chmerkovskiy. It’s insensitive and buffoon-like to post a picture of a young, obese girl, using —
— Jenny (@FashionistaJR) January 31, 2016
Shame on you Valentin Chmerkovskiy for insult any a young lady with Down’s Syndrome about her weight! I hope she… https://t.co/Ckph8P9uK7
— Melissa Earnest (@MelissaDianne85) January 31, 2016
Others defended him.
@iamValC we love you, and we’re here for you. and we know who the real Valentin Chmerkovskiy is.
— Sandra ♡ (@WitneyCarsonFan) January 30, 2016
Chmerkovskiy, who’s known for visiting sick children in hospitals, defended himself in an Instagram post on Friday night.
“Worry about your character, not your reputation. Your character is who you are. Your reputation is who people think you are.”
Ryan Levy, an attorney for Patterson Intellectual Property Law in Nashville, told WKRN that it will be a tough case to prove for Skylar, saying there is little expectation of privacy in public places.
Levy noted that if someone takes a picture of your child and distributes it online, in many cases there’s not much you can do about it.
What do you think of Val Chmerkovskiy’s post? Should the girl have sued him?
[Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated]