Val Chmerkovskiy is one of the most outspoken pro dancers on Dancing with the Stars, but the 29-year-old Ukrainian heartthrob may have opened up his mouth — and his Facebook account — one time too many. According to People, Chmerkovskiy and CBS are being sued by a family for allegedly sharing a meme that mocks their 16-year-old daughter, who has Down syndrome. But the DWTS pro is defending himself, saying it’s not what it seems.
While Chmerkovskiy has not spoken publicly about the lawsuit, he posted a carefully worded tweet to let fans know that there is another side to the story.
Last month, Chmerkovskiy shared a viral meme of a young girl her drinking a soda, and the DWTS Season 20 champ captioned the photo, “Letting your kid become obese should be considered child abuse.”
The controversial photo was originally taken in 2008 while the child was watching a baseball game — and it was taken without her or her family’s knowledge. The photographer who snapped the pic posted it on his Flickr account, and it was later used to create a mean-spirited meme that said, “Everything that’s wrong with America.”
While Val Chmerkovskiy didn’t share the photo on his Facebook page until last month, the lawsuit points a finger at him for helping it to go viral. Val removed the offensive photo from his social media accounts, but not before the girl’s sister saw it on the dancer’s Facebook page, sparking the lawsuit. The suit seeks $6 million each from Chmerkovskiy and CBS News, and another $600,000 from the photographer, alleging defamation, emotional distress, and invasion of privacy.
According to a report from TMZ, the mother of the girl in the photo sent Val several emails asking him to take down the meme, which he did three days after he posted it. The DWTS regular even apologized for his “the lack of sensitivity,” but he also called the girl’s mother out for “handicapping” her defenseless child. Val criticized the mother, telling her that young children don’t know better, and that is why parents have to be there for them. The lawsuit states that the child’s weight issues are a result of her medical condition.
In a lengthy Instagram response, Val reiterated that he has no desire to shame anyone, and that the purpose of his post was just to urge parents to take more responsibility when it comes to their children’s diet. He also insisted that he is not discriminatory against people with weight issues. Chmerkovskiy even described his own mother as “heavy set” and added that she is the most beautiful woman in the world in his eyes.
Val also insisted that his social media caption was not directly about the young girl in the photo, but more about children’s health in this country in general.
Val Chmerkovskiy has always been vocal about children’s health. In an interview with Glamour, the super-fit dancer even said it scares him to think about his future kids having health problems.
“I feel like having kids is the greatest gift you can possibly have. When I think about the one thing that scares me the most in life, or the one thing that I think about the most, it is the health of my future kids. I just want them to be born healthy, and then everything else doesn’t matter. It’s crazy that I have that train of thought, but that’s where my mind goes.”
Although the lawsuit against Val Chmerkovskiy is still in the early stages, it’s another reminder that celebs need to watch what they post on social media, even if they think they have good intentions. Val Chmerkovskiy will have to deal with the legal aspects of the incident before he can make a true public statement, but it’s a safe bet we haven’t heard the last from him on the topic of childhood health and nutrition.
Watch the video below for more on the Val Chmerkovskiy lawsuit.
[Photo By Sergi Alexander/Getty Images]