TV & Movies

Casting Sean Spicer on Dancing With the Stars Is a Major Misstep

He doesn't deserve a redemption tour

A greyscale photo of Sean Sean Spicer placed on an orange background.

(Photo: Getty, Illustration: Joel Louzado)

I used to be a huge Dancing With the Stars fan. I would faithfully watch every Monday with my mom and happily live-tweet as I watched my fave (D-list) stars dance their way to winning that mirror ball trophy. As the series dragged on, however, I wasn’t as committed to the show and tuned in here and there to see how the “stars” fared at choreography and performance. But after yesterday’s announcement of the show’s season 28 contestants which includes former White House press secretary Sean Spicer I’m officially done with DWTS. Judging by the backlash the show has received, so are many others.

Sean Spicer doesn’t deserve redemption, especially in the form of a reality TV show

Spicer, as you may recall, served as President Donald Trump’s press secretary for the first six months of Trump’s presidency. During his time in the White House, Spicer lied about Trump’s inauguration crowd size, repeated Trump’s false claim that former president Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, infamously claimed that Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” and lied about who made the decisions to fire then-national security advisor Michael Flynn and former FBI director James Comey.

He’s a liar who should not be given the chance to “rehabilitate” his image (while earning six figures) on such a popular network television show. And while DWTS isn’t the first stop on Spicer’s “redemption tour” (since leaving the White House, he’s written a memoir, landed a prestigious fellowship at Harvard and appeared onstage at the 2017 Emmys, where he later got a kiss on the cheek backstage from James Corden before proceeding to party with Hollywood celebs), it’s most definitely one of the most high-profile and it’s a huge platform for Trump’s former mouthpiece to appear on.

And sure, some may argue Spicer was simply sticking to Trump’s scripts, that does not mean he isn’t problematic in his own right. In an op-ed for NBC News, contributor Kurt Bardella writes: Trump’s “racist, sexist, destructive agenda is not an agenda of one. It is made possible and executed by people who make the conscious decision to stand next to the president and support, defend and execute his vision for our country. The people who help him do this are not innocent bystanders. They are not being coerced into participating. They are not helpless. They can, at any time, choose to walk away and speak out.”

Spicer did end up resigning from the White House, but his support for Trump doesn’t seem to have wavered. During a book tour for his memoir, “The Briefing,” Spicer appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live, where Kimmel asked him, “Which is more important, loyalty or the truth?” Spicer responded, “I don’t think it’s a binary choice. I don’t think you have to choose one or the other.”

Through his role as former White House press secretary, Spicer actively pushed Trump’s hateful agenda without any regard for moral conscience, as proven by his numerous lies. Why, then, should he deserve to redeem himself on a show that’s meant to be fun and carefree, especially when the man he so staunchly supported is still in power?

‘Normalizing’ Sean Spicer is dangerous, and sets a bad precedent

Spicer’s role in DWTS shows just how blurred the line between celebrity and politics has become. It’s bad enough that a former reality TV star with no experience in politics whatsoever is now POTUS, but to have a highly problematic former White House employee dancing every week for America is the icing on the cake.

Sean Spicer should not be normalized. He should not be celebrated, and he should not be cheered on. His former actions should not be waltzed over in the form of weekly performances on a network TV show. The thought of people (many of whom are sure to be Trump supporters) cheering on Sean Spicer and his yet-to-be-announced professional dancing partner fills me with disgust. I cringe at the thought of Spicer staying longer than one week on the show due to fans voting to keep him in.

And truly, casting Sean Spicer is setting a terrible precedent. Who’s next? Kellyanne Conway? Trump himself? Where does the line get drawn? Entertainment should not be used to humanize people who deserve to be called out, but DWTS is doing just that, and for what purpose? Better ratings? Or could there perhaps be a hidden agenda to support the Trump administration, especially during election season? Either way, it’s wrong and further cheapens a show that already has a poor reputation for attempting to rehabilitate the careers of failed “stars” (ahem, let’s not forget the casting of U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte after he lied about being robbed at the Rio Olympics, or the enlisting other controversial Republicans like Bristol Palin and Tucker Carlson).

Despite the backlash, DWTS executive producer stands by his decision

ABC’s decision to cast Sean Spicer on DWTS has been called a “slap in the face to every American he has lied to” and a “terrible, cynical ratings grab.” Longtime DWTS host Tom Bergeron even took to Twitter to express his dismay over the decision, though he did not name Spicer directly in his post.

“It is the prerogative of the producers, in partnership with the network, to make whatever decisions they feel are in the best long term interests of the franchise,” he wrote. “We can agree to disagree, as we do now, but ultimately it’s their call. I’ll leave it to them to answer any further questions about those decisions.”

However, Andrew Llinares, an executive producer of DWTS, stands by the decision to cast Spicer, telling the Chicago Sun Times the cast is one of the “best casts we’ve had in years.”

“We’ve been off the air for a year, (so) we wanted to make it feel like a big annual event. There’s something for everyone in the cast, young and old. There’s people from the world of sports, music, acting, all sorts of different areas,” he said. ““It’s really fun for us to have people from all different walks of life, representing all different parts of this great country.”

Also (surprisingly) showing his support for Spicer? Queer Eye‘s Karamo Brown, who will also compete on season 28 of the show.

“Sean Spicer and I have been talking. I was most excited to meet him because, the thing is, is that people would look at us and think that we’re polar opposites, but I’m a big believer that if you can talk to someone and meet in the middle, you can learn about each other and help each other both grow,” Brown told Access Hollywood. “So, we have been chatting all day today. He’s a good guy, really sweet guy.”

As for Spicer himself? He plans on “going out and having some fun.”

“I’m going to enjoy myself, and if more people like me, then that’s great,” he told Mediaite on August 21 in response to a New York Times story that criticized his casting. “I’m very happy with who I am. I’m very happy with the friends that I have. The idea that I need this to make myself feel better is preposterous. I’m in this because I enjoy it. I’m very comfortable with who I am, what I believe and who I support, and that’s it.”

I feel queasy thinking about the judges praising his dancing and making “spicy” puns and the inevitable team hashtag that will be used over and over again to promote Spicer on the show. It’s an embarrassment to the network and the people associated with the network and, as Bardella says, it “sends the message that it doesn’t matter if you lie, attack the press or betray your country—if you’re famous enough, you’ll probably still be gifted opportunities to add to your fortune and boost your fame.”


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