Tom DeLay Gets in on 'Dancing With Stars'

Sept. 8, 2006 — -- He may have resigned amid a scandal, but it's the style of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to not go gentle into that good night.

"I have credentials in the conservative movement, a lot of support," he told ABC affiliate KTRK-TV in April, insisting he would continue being a conservative activist. "I'm going to work as hard as I can to elect Republicans," he pledged.

Watch the report tonight on "Nightline."

What you may not realize is that DeLay was talking about electing Republicans on "Dancing With the Stars," ABC's new reality TV show in which the viewers elect ballroom dancing champions. Its second season kicks off Tuesday night.

This week DeLay e-mailed supporters, asking them to back contestant and country music singer Sara Evans, who performed at the 2004 Republican National Convention.

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

DeLay also singled out for defeat Evans' opponent on the show, "ultra liberal talk show host Jerry Springer. We need to send a message to Hollywood and the media that smut has no place on television by supporting good people like Sara Evans," DeLay wrote.

We wondered what a different "Dancing With the Stars" competitor -- MSNBC's Tucker Carlson -- thought of all this.

"I thought that it was a joke at first," Carlson told us. And then he remembered, he said, "Oh, yeah, Tom DeLay lives in any irony-free world." So it had to be real.

Carlson said he takes the challenge seriously.

"Look, they raised the bar," he told "Nightline." "So Sara Evans gets Tom DeLay? I got Al Sharpton."

Sharpton's office confirmed that he has, in fact, endorsed Carlson's choreographic efforts. But it was pointed out to Carlson that it might be unusual for the liberal Sharpton to endorse the conservative Carlson.

"That's the mistake that Mr. DeLay made off the bat, calling this a battle between the right-wing Sara Evans and the left-wing Jerry Springer," Carlson said, with a straight face. "No, its bigger than that. This is America. This is prime-time reality programming. It's not about politics."

That said, Carlson announced that he's secured the endorsements of that political odd couple, Republican Mary Matalin and Democrat James Carville. And he hopes to get Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., onboard, though it was pointed out to him that Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., had also hoped -- to no avail, it turned out -- to secure McCain's endorsement for his Independent Party bid for Senate.

"I think that we are going to be a little luckier than Joe Lieberman," Carlson quipped.

Joking aside, Carlson has been practicing four hours a day for weeks for the competition, with partner Elana Grenenko, the Russian national champion. "So where I began this process probably the worst dancer in the history of dance. I can now kind of do it."

As for the "serious" campaign he's now waging, it's pointed out to him that some people might take it too seriously.

"I know," he laughed. "You know, the funny thing about this whole experience is it started out as a joke and became very serious. Obviously, I did this" -- "Dancing With the Stars" -- "as a joke. ... And now it turns out in a couple of days that I'm actually going to have to do it. So its like life itself. It starts out as a joke, and then it becomes real."

Art imitating life imitating reality television. Break a leg, Tucker.