Strictly Come Dancing: The 16 Most Controversial Moments Ever

Anton Du Beke's racism scandal isn't the only moment that's shocked fans.
Strictly hosts Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly
Strictly hosts Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly
Guy Levy via Press Association Images

For a show that is synonymous with family-friendly light entertainment, Strictly Come Dancing hasn’t half landed itself in a few scandals over the years.

While Strictly might seem like the polite, unassuming auntie in the reality TV family tree, it’s still managed to become embroiled in controversy on a number of occasions, whether it’s for accusations of racism, its pro dancers’ behaviour behind the scenes and even one memorable incident that was brought up in the House of Commons.

Here are just 12 of the most controversial moments in ‘Strictly’ history...

Anton Du Beke Apologises After Racist Comment
Pro dancer Anton became embroiled in a scandal in 2009, when he used a racial slur to describe his partner, Laila Rouass, during an off-air conversation.

While he later insisted that he'd only used the term "p**i" as backstage "banter" (*eyes roll wildly in head*), he did unreservedly apologise in a statement.
Brucie Rushes To Anton's Defence
Former Strictly host Sir Bruce Forsyth took a bit of heat himself after the racism scandal, when he insisted Anton hadn't done anything wrong.

He said at the time: "We used to have a sense of humour about this. You go back 25, 30, 40 years and there has always been a bit of humour about the whole thing."

Brucie was later forced to backtrack in a more official capacity, with a statement saying: "To be absolutely clear, the use of racially offensive language is never either funny or acceptable."

Oh dear.
Arlene Phillips Gets The Chop
Michael Boyd/PA Archive
After five years on Strictly, Arlene was suddenly axed from the panel in 2009, when she was replaced by then-champion Alesha Dixon, 26 years her junior.

The decision faced a huge backlash at the time, with many accusing the BBC of age discrimination, particularly when Harriet Harman even brought up the issue in the House of Commons.
Calls For Same-Sex Couples
In the last few years, Strictly has repeatedly faced calls to feature same-sex pairs in the competition, and while they've repeatedly said there were "no plans" to do so, the BBC recently admitted they had changed their stance.

In 2018, much was made of a group performance from the show's professionals in which portions saw them teaming up in same-sex pairs. While some praised this as a step in the right direction, others branded it a "cop-out".
John Sergeant Dances Off The Show (Not Dragging Kristina Behind Him, Though)
John Sergeant was not a good dancer. Lovely man, we're sure. Very bright, very successful. Rubbish dancer.

The judges knew it, he knew it and the public knew it - yet he stayed in the contest week after week.

When more proficient dancers wound up being sent home over John each week, he eventually decided to step down from the contest, as die-hard Strictly fans grew angrier.

He said: "The trouble is that there is now a real danger that I might win the competition. Even for me that would be a joke too far."
Anthony Ogogo And Oti Mabuse Make Race Observation
Mike Marsland via Getty Images
When Anthony Ogogo and Oti Mabuse became the second contestants eliminated in 2015, they both came out and suggested they stood less of a chance at winning because they were black.

While Anthony said he was surprised the BBC chose not to "mix up" the minority contestants and professionals, Oti said: "It's no wonder that I got partnered with Anthony and that we got voted off second week, obviously people at the BBC don't want to see a black person win."

She later retracted her statement, and was welcomed back on the show in 2016, where she was partnered with Danny Mac.
Ola Jordan Lays Into The Judges
Eamonn McCormack via Getty Images
Ola Jordan raised eyebrows when she suggested that pro dancers on Strictly weren't paid enough, particularly in comparison to the judges, who she accused of not knowing enough about ballroom.

Bruno Tonioli had some harsh words for her in response, fuming: "Those are the terms of the negotiations. If you don’t like it, stop moaning and fuck off."
James Jordan Asks: 'Why Sack Me?'
Jonathan HordleRexShutterstock
Of course, Ola's husband James Jordan is the king of hitting out at Strictly, which he seems to do whenever the opportunity arises.

He departed from the show in 2014, accusing bosses of firing him. When a tweet from the show said he'd be missed, he fired back simply: "So why sack me?"
The Strictly 'Curse'
At this point, the so-called Strictly "curse" has become synonymous with the show, with a load of stars breaking up with their partners during or immediately after their time on the show, and a handful even getting together with their professional partner.

From the 2018 final, for example, two of the celebrities are now dating their professional partners, while Ashley Roberts is also coupled up with Giovanni Pernice.
Seann Walsh And Katya Jones Are Caught Kissing
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Of course, the most famous example of the Strictly "curse" came in 2018, when Seann Walsh and Katya Jones were caught on camera kissing after a night out, despite them both being in relationships at the time.

To make matters worse, Seann's then-girlfriend released a statement accusing him of gaslighting her, revealing the kiss had taken place on her birthday. Unsurprisingly, she dumped him there and then.

Katya, meanwhile, was quick to insist that the indiscretion was not representative of her relationship with husband Neil Jones. Since then they've also announced their split, but dismissed claims that the Strictly scandal was anything to do with the break-up.
Craig Revel Horwood On Kristina Rihanoff
Eamonn McCormack via Getty Images
On the subject of the 'curse', Kristina Rihanoff has some experience in that domain. She got together with Joe Calzaghe shortly after their time on the show, splitting in 2013.

It was around this time that she was partnered with Ben Cohen, who would later become the father of her child.

Judge Craig Revel Horwood later joked that Kristina was 'gutted' to be partnered with Daniel O'Donnell in 2015, adding: 'It was rather obvious she wasn’t going to get a hot, young celeb after everything that’s happened.

"It’s natural to fall in love with your dance partner when you’re spending so much time together and Kristina managed it a few times!"

Jamelia Accuses The Show Of Favouring Peter Andre
Anthony Harvey via Getty Images
After landing herself in a record five dance-offs, Jamelia made the rather surprising move of accusing the show of favouring Peter Andre, when she lost out to him in 2015.

On Loose Women that week, she said: "It wasn’t until they re-recorded Pete’s standing ovation, I’d say that was the moment we knew we were going home."

Like Maleficent at a christening, James Jordan also offered his take, suggesting Peter was being given an unfair advantage by opening or closing the show each week.
Ola And Kristina's Sexy Calendars
It was reported while Ola Jordan and Kristina Rihanoff were still on the show, that 'Strictly' bosses were unhappy with their annual racy calendars, claiming they clashed with the show's family-friendly image.

The accompanying image is one of the photos from Ola's calendar the year after. It's safe to say she was not here for that critique.
'Doping' Accusations
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In April 2016, a London doctor alleged that he'd prescribed performance-enhancing drugs to a number of athletes, including two 'Strictly' pros.

A 'Strictly' spokesperson later countered: "In the absence of any evidence or further information being presented to us, we will not be commenting."
Craig Revel Horwood Is Forced To Apologise Before The Series Has Even Begu
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While Craig is known for his cutting remarks on the judging panel, we weren't expecting them to start before we'd even seen a single episode of the 2019 series.

He made headlines when, during a taping of the pre-recorded series launch, he made a joke about Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton's romance that producers deemed so inappropriate he had to issue an apology.

"I’m deeply sorry for the offence caused to Kevin and Stacey and everyone who works on the show," he said.

"I recognise that what I said was hurtful, cruel and incredibly disrespectful. It was a huge error of judgment that I very much regret.”
Danny John-Jules Accuses Show Of 'Creating Stories' About Him
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Red Dwarf star Danny John-Jules got off to a flying start on the series in 2018, but the wheels started to come off when reports emerged in the press accusing him of "bullying" his partner, Amy Dowden.

Both Danny and Amy denied this was the case, with the actor accusing the journalists behind the claims of being racist.

After leaving the show, he suggested there was a "vendetta" against him, later accusing the BBC of playing a part by "creating stories about him" for the press.

The BBC was quick to dismiss this suggestion, insisting they were "categorically untrue".

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