Bonner Bolton made fans go wild for the wrong reason during his big Dancing with the Stars debut.
Some DWTS fans think that Bonner Bolton, a professional bull rider, tried to grab Sharna Burgess’ crotch during the show’s Season 24 premiere. As Entertainment Tonight reports, this moment happened backstage, not out on the dance floor.
Some viewers noticed Bonner placing his hand between Sharna’s legs while everyone was watching Nick Viall and Peta Murgatroyd get their scores. Bonner was sitting in a chair, and Sharna was leaning against it. She looked a bit uncomfortable as she pushed her partner’s hand away from her intimate area.
— James V Rooney (@stl2_nyc) March 21, 2017
Videos of the incident quickly spread on social media, and some Dancing with the Stars fans were shocked by what they saw. Many viewers assumed that Bonner Bolton’s hand placement was not an accident.
“It looked like it was intentional, watch his face. Gross,” one fan tweeted.
“That is repulsive behavior! What a jerk!!!!” another wrote.
One Twitter user even joked that Bonner Bolton was “trying to Donald Trump Sharna,” a reference to comments the president made in 2005. Trump told former Access Hollywood anchor Billy Bush that he can “grab” women “by the p***y” because he’s a “star.”
However, Bonner Bolton and Sharna Burgess want Dancing with the Stars fans to know that Bonner was not trying to inappropriately touch his partner. According to the cowboy, his hand placement was “totally unintentional.”
“I was just stargazed by Nick and Peta’s performance and I was looking at the TV screen,” Bolton explained. “I felt her bump into me yet I wasn’t really looking at what was bumping into me.”
“There was some hand placement that went south, so to speak.”
— EntertainmentTonight (@etnow) March 21, 2017
Sharna Burgess has also addressed “handgate.” In a series of tweets, the DWTS pro passionately defended Bonner Bolton’s honor. She called the fans who accused Bonner of placing his hand between her legs on purpose “ridiculous” and “gossip hungry fools.” Sharna also described her dance partner as “a true gentleman,” and she said that the incident was an “innocent accident.”
“Loverz its #clapbackseason Lets talk about the awkward hand… actually since I’ve had #nipplegate already, lets just call it #handgate,” Sharna tweeted. “Anyone who has the ridiculous idea that it was intentional…is straight up stupid. As in lacking th intelligence to realize it was innocent.”
According to Sharna Burgess, the attention that handgate is getting has embarrassed Bonner Bolton.
“@bonner_bolton ‘s a true southern gentleman & was so embarrassed that it even happened let alone got caught on camera for gossips to gawk at,” she wrote.
Sharna Burgess also mentioned Donald Trump in her tweet storm.
“Anyway we have a POTUS that did the same damn thing but worse.. WITH PRIDE..so haters b gone #perspective #handgate #thecowboysinnocent????????” Sharna tweeted.
— Official DWTS (@DancingABC) March 1, 2017
If Sharna Burgess and Bonner Bolton can survive handgate, they’ll still have their work cut out for them on Dancing with the Stars. Bolton doesn’t have the name recognition or previous dance experience that other celebrities on the show do, and his first score—22 out of 40—landed him near the bottom of the leaderboard. However, the cowboy does have a compelling story. As V Magazine reports, a 2016 bull riding accident left Bolton temporarily paralyzed from the neck down. He suffered from a neck injury that required six hours of surgery, and he had to endure months of demanding physiotherapy.
Bonner Bolton hasn’t rode a bull since, but he hopes to return to the sport that he loves someday. Many DWTS fans might find it inspiring that he hasn’t let his scary accident stop him from doing something else that’s physically demanding.
There are plenty of DWTS viewers who love a good showmance, so Bonner Bolton and Sharna Burgess may also win over fans by continuing to display their incredible chemistry on the dance floor.
“I was telling her before we started tonight, I said, ‘I can’t look at you for too long, I feel like I might get distracted’ and maybe that’s why I missed some of my steps,” Bonner told Us Weekly of his pretty partner.
Sharna Burgess admits that she and Bonner Bolton have “obvious chemistry” and that her partner makes her blush. An eyewitness also told E! News that Sharna and Bonner were “hardcore flirting before their dance number,” so maybe the handgate talk will eventually be replaced by romance rumors.
[Featured Images by Alberto E. Rodriguez and Mike Coppola/Getty Images]