‘DWTS’ Carrie Ann Inaba on That Hug With Kaitlyn & Artem: ‘COVID Is No Joke!’

Carrie Ann Inaba
ABC/Eric McCandless

As Dancing With the Stars viewers know, Carrie Ann Inaba can be strict, especially when it comes to the “no-lift” rule on the dance floor. But what about when it comes to hugs in the age of COVID-19? It seems she understandably prefers some distance, please.

When Kaitlyn Bristowe (The Bachelorette) and her pro partner Artem Chigvintsev received praise from Inaba after their perfectly scored dance on Monday, November 9 — which they danced to Britney Spears’ “Toxic” — they gave the judge an unrehearsed hug.

The 'DWTS' Sun Sets on Chrishell Stause, Who Has a Few Things to Say About the MatterSee Also

The 'DWTS' Sun Sets on Chrishell Stause, Who Has a Few Things to Say About the Matter

The 'Selling Sunset' star says, 'We left out it all out on the dance floor.'

“I went from joy and elation [over how well they’d done] to ‘Don’t come near me!'” Inaba said to reporters after last night’s broadcast. “I was like, ‘Oh, maybe this is a joke. Maybe they’re going to come over and then, not come over, but they came over, and [we hugged].”

Inaba, who said that everyone at the show is regularly tested for COVID, understands how the couple’s joy over their performance led to the embrace.

Dancing With the Stars Episode 9 Kaitlyn Bristowe Artem Chigvintsev

“They’d done such a great job and I’m so proud of them and I’m so happy for them.” But, she added, her immediate response was, “Don’t do that again! COVID is no joke!”

The spontaneous hug was the result of Bristowe and Chigvintsev breaking through and earning Inaba’s grade; the judge had scored the couple lower than other judges in previous dances.

“It’s funny,” Bristowe said. “I feel like we’ve just been at this standstill with Carrie where it was like, ‘What do you want from us?’ This week, we all had this understanding that we’ve worked hard to have this breakthrough. We [saw] that her tough comments have probably gotten us to where we are right now so, let’s all hug it out.”

Inaba wanting the couple to do better had led to some highly charged online criticism, which she spoke out about. “I don’t mind [viewers] being passionate and expressing their disagreements with what I’m doing, but I will not be bullied and I don’t approve of anybody bulling any else,” Inaba said. “So, I spoke out about bullying on a larger plane. That’s important to me in the larger scheme of things. I do appreciate who [fans] love and that they root for them.”

Inaba added that she has great respect for the efforts the couples give each week. “It’s not easy to appease all three [judges] at the same moment with the same piece of choreography,” she said. “So, I know [Kaitlyn and Artem] were just relieved because the last two weeks have been difficult and challenging. They deserved their [perfect score this week] because they were amazing!”

Dancing With the Stars, Mondays, 8/7c, ABC