Gabi Butler Shares Emotional Response to Jerry Harris' Sexual Abuse Allegations (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
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Following Jerry Harris’ arrest in September 2020 on child pornography charges, Cheer details the subsequent fallout and how the scandal affected the Navarro squad. In addition to speaking out on camera in season 2, Gabi Butler also opens up to ET’s Lauren Zima about the charges against her former teammate and where their friendship stands now.
“I was very shocked and obviously devastated. I felt like my heart just sank to the bottom of my stomach,” Butler says now, adding that the arrest and the charges against Harris were “the most devastating thing” she’s ever had to go through during her two years at Navarro College. “It is very hard, like, 'cause the Jerry I knew is the Jerry that you guys saw [on TV] and it was the, you know, the one that was lifting people up when they were down. He was the positive one that was always making you smile and laugh. And even on your worst day, you know, like him just being there and smiling, it was like that. That was the Jerry I knew.”
She adds, “It was a very hard time for sure.”
In the powerful midseason episode, “Jerry,” Butler is one of many teammates who reacts to the news of the season 1 breakout star’s arrest and his ongoing legal scandal. It also features an on-camera interview with twin brothers Charlie and Sam, who detail what they claim happened between them and Harris.
A spokesperson for Harris has previously told ET that the Cheer star disputes all the allegations made against him. "We categorically dispute the claims made against Jerry Harris, which are alleged to have occurred when he was a teenager," the statement read. "We are confident that when the investigation is completed the true facts will be revealed."
“I was here in my room when I got the call about Jerry,” Butler reveals in the docuseries. “And immediately my heart, my heart completely sank. I honestly thought I was living in a bad dream. I literally couldn’t wrap, could not wrap my head around any of that. I felt like someone had just, like, died.”
“I don’t agree with what he was accused of or condone it at all. And it is very unfortunate and it breaks my heart. But it’s literally like your family. How are you gonna just hate your family?” a tearful Butler says later in the episode. “So, I feel like people expect me to be like, ‘Well, you should hate him and you should never speak to him again.’ But the thing is I can’t. Like, I cannot and I won’t. I can’t turn my back on him because he was there for me when I needed him.”
While speaking to ET, Butler shares that she’s still in touch with Harris, who is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago until his trial begins. “I write to him basically the same way Monica does,” she says, referring to the letters that the show revealed he has sent to his former coach. “I’ll hear from him every once in a while.”
And Butler still stands by what she said on camera. “What I said then is exactly how I feel to this day. Like, my feelings will never change on that and I stand very strongly in what I said,” she tells ET. “I do think that he is always going to have a place in my heart that I feel will never just go away 'cause that was my family. The whole situation, I feel, it’s very sad and obviously cheerleading should be a safe place for everyone. It should be a safe place. So, it’s more like a ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ type of situation. That love doesn’t just go away. But I obviously do not condone anything that happened. But his case is still open, so I’m… just kind of, like, sitting back and hoping for, like, the best.”
She also says that cheer should be a safe space for everyone involved. “I definitely do think that as a whole, there are things that need to be fixed. There are situations like this one that happen a lot more often than people even realize in cheerleading and I think that overall, yes, we can do a much better job of keeping cheerleading safe,” she concludes.