'Dancing' up a political storm: Bristol Palin's feet have yet to meet defeat

By Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 21, 2010; 10:40 PM

With just one more night of competition to go before we find out if Bristol Palin wins the hideous-yet-coveted Mirror Ball Trophy, the executive producer of "Dancing with the Stars" insists the show's security system is catching and expunging all those votes for her that are being cast by people using bogus e-mail addresses to game the voting system.

On the other hand, the executive producer, Conrad Green also insists he's shocked -- shocked -- to discover the Palin family could have such a polarizing effect on the American public, over a simple little dance-competition show.

Meanwhile, a conservative blogger who's taking credit for the e-mail voting shenanigans, says he orchestrated the whole thing to pay back Democrats for years of voter fraud at the polls.

And Bristol's mom, Sarah, last week tried to capitalize on the size of her daughter's audience to boost ratings for her own, far less popular reality series, TLC's "Sarah Palin's Alaska."

These are just the latest headlines in our ongoing coverage of "Dancing with the Stars": Decision 2010: America at a Crossroads: The Final Countdown.

"I had no reasons to believe this would happen," Green told the TV Column late last week of the kerfuffle that has erupted over Bristol Palin, who is the weakest dancer in the competition according to the scores she's receiving from the show's professional ballroom dance judges but who has outlasted far more accomplished performers in this season's competition.

"It's been illuminating," Green said, adding: "A lot of this is timing - it's a particularly bad time in American politics. I love that people are being passionate but sad so many people are angry. . . . I don't want to anger our audience."

"That was never my intention" in casting Bristol on the show, he added, exuding sadness.

Take away Bristol's family name and her journey on the show is similar to that of underdogs who have been unlikely survivors in seasons past, Green insisted. "But this year "everybody got a bit mad about it."

"I feel sorry for Bristol -- she shouldn't have to be doing this under this scrutiny," continued Green -- the guy who is, in fact, orchestrating a lot of Bristol's discomfort.

Just last week, for instance, Green decided Bristol would be one of the last two "stars" to learn whether they had survived to the final round of competition on Tuesday's results show.

Show host Tom Bergeron or his sidekick Brooke Burke are careful each week to tell viewers that the two final dancers awaiting their fate on stage toward the end of results night are not necessarily the two lowest scoring competitors. The producer decides who will be left standing up on stage with the dancer about to get the hook.

Green could have arranged for "Dirty Dancing" star Jennifer Grey, or Disney star Kyle Massey (the other improbable survivor in this edition of the show, only no one's writing about him), to stand on stage with pop singer Brandy Norwood when Brandy got the hook one night after the judges gave her a perfect score for her tango.

(Scoring for this show is determined by a formula that gives equal weight to points awarded by the show's three professional judges, and votes cast by the public.)

Except, of course, having Bristol declared safe at the very last minute on Tuesday's broadcast created so much more drama -- and Green's crew was there to record the studio audience booing, while Brandy was left speechless and Grey's partner, Derek Hough, hitched up his jaw which had crashed to the floor.

"She's a 20-year-old-girl -- give her a break," Green complained in a phone interview two days after he orchestrated that bit of made-for-TV drama at Bristol's expense.

"That's my only sadness about it," he said, a bit too having-his-cake-and-eating-it-too-ily.

Green wants viewers to know the show's security system is weeding out all those votes being cast for Bristol overnight through bogus e-mail addresses.

"I'm confident we're able to spot if people are trying to game the system," he said Friday in response to commenters on the conservative blog Hillbuzz.org, claiming they had figured out how to game ABC's online voting system by creating fake e-mail addresses. One person claimed to have voted for Bristol 300 times that way in just three hours.

"You would have to be a rather strange person to sit up all night doing that," Green said dismissively.

Friday, Hillbuzz.org blogger Kevin DuJan wrote, "The real aim of Bristol's Pistols: to expose Democratic hypocrisy on voter fraud and ask why the media is so obsessed with the voting on a reality show but doesn't care about Leftist tampering with actual elections.

"The Left is angry whenever I teach conservatives the tricks the Left consistently employs against Republicans. . . . The media and the Left are engraged [sic] right now because 'Bristol's Pistols,' as they are calling us, have been creatively and energetically voting for her on a reality TV show. It's what I call 'Voting like a Democrat' . . . voting early . . . voting often . . . voting as cartoon characters . . . voting under aliases . . . ," DuJan wrote.

Also weighing in on the brouhaha late last week: Bristol's mom, Alaska governor turned Fox News Channel commentator turned reality TV star Sarah Palin.

"Ah yes. . . . Bristol-the-diva! Silly critics! See her diva-ish-ness Sunday, 'Sarah Palin's Alaska' 2 learn truth, before assuming.Thanks & enjoy!" Sarah Palin tweeted Thursday afternoon.

In its unveiling, Sarah Palin's new TLC reality series had attracted that basic cable network's biggest series-debut audience ever - 5 million viewers. But that's a drop in the bucket compared to the 20-million-ish who have been watching this season of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" in which her daughter is the star.

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