DeLay's Hammer Falls Short in 'Dancing With the Stars' Politics

Former House Leader Ballyhooed Sara Evans on Reality Show


Oct. 17, 2006 —  It's been a tough year for Tom DeLay.

The indicted former U.S. House majority leader quit his bid for re-election in April.

Now, even Sara Evans — the country star whom he enthusiastically supported to win on "Dancing With the Stars" — has withdrawn from the show amid controversy.

Evans says her final goodbye on tonight's show in a pretaped interview.

The 35-year-old announced on Thursday that she was dropping out of the competition after filing for divorce from her husband, Craig Schelske.

In divorce papers, she says he cheated on her, drank excessively, and possessed photographs of himself having sex with other women, including at least 100 nude photos of himself "in a state of arousal."

Schelske has denied his estranged wife's allegations. Evans subsequently accused him of diverting money from their joint savings account.

It was only a few weeks ago, when the "Dancing With the Stars" competition began, that DeLay urged his supporters by e-mail to ballyhoo Evans' performance.

"Sara Evans has been a strong supporter of the Republican Party and represents good American values," he wrote. "Let's show Sara that same support."

Schelske and Evans were once conservative darlings.

She performed at one of President Bush's 2004 inaugural balls as well as at the Republican convention. He ran for Congress that year in Oregon as a Republican candidate.

Though Schelske lost his bid for election, he is still listed as the chairman of Conservative Reform Agenda in Government — CRAIGpac — a political action committee.

It is unclear what effect DeLay's support might have had in keeping Evans in the competition.

"Let's face it, Sara Evans could have been booted off at least twice if the show went strictly by talent," said Marc Berman, TV critic at MediaWeek. "She was clearly weaker than some of her rivals."

But Berman says that Evans most likely got her boost in audience voting from country-music fans.

"DeLay might have been a factor in keeping Evans on the show, but I'm guessing it was small," Berman said. "If conservatives were that influential, they might have thrown some support to Tucker Carlson."

Carlson, a conservative talk-show host for MSNBC, was the first of the 11 contestants to be voted off "Dancing With the Stars."

In the same e-mail ballyhooing support for Evans, DeLay also urged supporters to vote against "ultraliberal talk-show host Jerry Springer."

Nevertheless, the 62-year-old Springer has turned into an underdog hero, especially after telling the audience two weeks ago that he didn't mind losing, as long as he got to put his newfound waltzing skills to use at his daughter's wedding.

It's also unclear how ABC-TV will deal with Evans' departure.

Berman and other TV critics say it's inevitable that one of the eliminated couples will be brought back into the competition. But how that might be done remains a mystery.

"Our comment is no comment," said "Dancing With the Stars" spokeswoman Aime Wolf.

"Watch and find out."

"Dancing With the Stars" airs on ABC-TV, a division of The Walt Disney Co., which is also the parent company of ABC News.