Published April 28, 2016
Think before you meme.
That’s the lesson for “Dancing With the Stars” pro Val Chmerkovskiy, who is being sued by a 16-year-old girl with Down Syndrome after sharing a meme that used her photo to his 365,000 Facebook followers three weeks ago, TMZ reports.
The meme includes a photo of the overweight girl drinking a large soda, with the caption: “Letting your kid become obese should be considered child abuse.”
The young woman is suing Chmerkovskiy and CBS News — who retweeted the meme — for $6 million each for severe emotional distress. She’s also suing the photographer responsible for the pic — which was snapped at a 2008 baseball game — for $600,000. The photo first went viral in 2014, with the caption, “Everything that’s wrong with America.”
Children with Down Syndrome have an increased likelihood of obesity.
The girl’s mother contacted Chmerkovskiy and begged him to take down the offensive photo, saying: “I couldn’t believe it when I saw it; makes me wonder what kind of people are out there. It makes me sick.”
He ultimately deleted the post, saying, “I have no desire to discriminate or shame, I just think people should have a little more knowledge and take more responsibility when it comes to their children’s diet. That’s all. It’s not about what I find beautiful or not, it’s about what’s healthy or not. Anyway, thank you.”
Chmerkovskiy, who’s known for visiting sick children in hospitals, defended himself on social media Friday night.
“Worry about your character, not your reputation,” read an Instagram post. “Your character is who you are. Your reputation is who people think you are.”