- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 18, 2009

“Dancing With the Stars” producers on Monday dismissed fans’ promises to boycott new contestant Tom DeLay, saying the Texas Republican would be a “big, bold character” who would attract reality-show viewers.

ABC announced earlier in the day that Mr. DeLay, who left Congress under a cloud of political scandal, would appear on the show’s ninth season, beginning Sept. 21.

Some angry fans said they would boycott the upcoming season over his selection, because he stepped down from his Texas congressional seat in 2006 after being indicted on criminal campaign finance charges.

“I don’t want to lose a single audience member, but at the end of the day I genuinely believe he’s going to be fun to watch,” Conrad Green, the show’s executive producer, told The Washington Times.

Mr. Green said each season the show gets comments such as the one “wrlucas” posted at ABC.com Monday: “My wife and I have watched every season since the first. Not this time. Good bye.”

“I’ll be watching something else this season due to the fact that you have a crook on your show,” another viewer said, echoing dozens of others.

Mr. DeLay was never charged with a crime, but several of his aides were snagged in a corruption probe regarding jailed former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who funded several DeLay political trips and gifts. The Republican was forced out of leadership and opted to retire.

Mr. Green said the network researched the indictment and, “given there is not a pending court case and doesn’t appear to be one on the horizon … we’re not going to damn the guy for something that hasn’t been proven.”

The producer added that he considers Mr. DeLay the “perfect candidate: He’s always loved dancing and is willing to put himself out on a limb.”

Mr. Green added that it’s not about politics, but Republicans can root for the politician and “Democrats can hope he falls on his bum.”

Indeed, Mr. DeLay’s political foes were quick to mock, and the Texas Democratic Party said there is “good news” for state Republicans: “After you’ve failed Texas, there’s always a career in reality TV.”

Mr. DeLay has dropped 12 pounds from working with a personal trainer all summer to prepare for the show.

“This is going to be so much fun. I will need your support,” Mr. DeLay declared on Twitter on Monday.

Mr. DeLay, 62, said he is excited but noted that he is the oldest contestant by 11 years. “Have to go after that AARP vote,” he joked on Twitter.

On Tuesday, he will meet his dance partner and begin rehearsals in Los Angeles.

DeLay spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty said he has an “advantage” over the other contestants because “he does actually dance.”

“This is a fun new challenge, not a political crusade, but we’ll still need to enlist all the help we can get to whip up the vote,” she said.

Among his 15 rivals on the show are Donnie Osmond, retired NFL player Michael Irvin and Ultimate Fighting champion Chuck Liddell.

The last season opener drew 22.5 million viewers, and interest in Mr. DeLay is high - with his name generating the most comments at ABC.com Monday.

As “susanstam” commented on the DeLay pick: “Should be interesting. Politicians can dance around almost anything!”

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