Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ becoming a political contributor on Fox News should be expected, but the announcement of Sean Spicer's casting as a celebrity contestant on Dancing with the Stars is a political misstep for the entertainment show. 

This week, it was announced that not only would Sarah Huckabee Sanders become a Fox News political contributor, Sean Spicer would also become a celebrity contestant on Dancing with the Stars (DWTS). Both decisions sparked controversy amid their associations and time spent with the administration of the self-proclaimed “chosen one,” also known as President Donald J. Trump. Many associate his campaign and presidency with almost every form of discrimination, therefore those who worked under him or with him will inevitably be associated with the same forms of discrimination, whether or not the labels are warranted. 

At least it can be understood why Huckabee-Sanders would contribute to Fox News, whose more controversial news programs host a wide variety of offensive and controversial people as contributors. Many of their programs also support Trump. The decision to make Spicer a celebrity contestant on DWTS seems to be a little more out of the left field and the casting decision sparked a lot of controversies online. The question now is whether or not the casting will help or hurt the show’s viewership and ratings.

Spicer on DWTS?

Of all the people who could appear on the DWTS, Sean Spicer is definitely not the first person to come to mind. He turned down an offer to be a celebrity contestant on the show two years prior when he left the White House, claiming he was “too busy.” When the cast was announced, he came out in front of a mock White House podium.

Spicer’s entrance during the announcement is definitely disrespectful considering his time as White House Press Secretary is not looked on highly. He was bad at his job. He made offensive comments and blamed the media for a lot of his own faults. His time in the White House inspired a litany of skits on SNL where Spicer, played by Melissa McCarthy, was portrayed in a hilarious, but the ultimately negative way. What Sean Spicer is most notable for is lying to the press, which in the Trump administration means that he was probably doing his job as he was told to do it, despite the questionable morality and lack of charisma behind his conduct.

He will appear alongside co-stars and celebrity contestants James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek), Karamo Brown (Netflix’s Queer Eye), Hannah Brown (Bachelorette), Lamar Odom (professional basketball player), Christie Brinkley (supermodel), Lauren Alaina (country singer), Ally Brooke (ex-Fifth Harmony Member), Mary Wilson (motown singer, The Supremes), Ray Lewis (ex-professional football player for the Baltimore Ravens, was convicted of obstruction of justice in a murder case), Kate Flannery (Meredith from The Office), and Kel Mitchell (from Nickelodeon’s All That and Kennan and Kel).  

Is his casting an attempt to redeem him in the eyes of the public? Simply to make money? Spicer claims he is doing it for fun, which makes some sense given descriptions of what it is like to work in Trump’s White House. After Spicer left the White House, he needed to lie low for a while but it would make sense that he would eventually need to enjoy himself and be seen in the public eye again. 

Spicer even acknowledges that he is a horrible dancer, but promises to work extremely hard to keep up and stay on the show. Perhaps, his appearance on DWTS would bring him a bit of catharsis and show the public that he really is not the guy everyone thinks he is under the stress of the White House — which remains to be seen.

ABC And DWTS Reactions

Many accuse the ABC network of getting “political” by announcing Sean Spicer as a contestant. Two popular pro-dancers from the shows previous seasons — Sharna Burgess and Artem Chigvintsev — both announced after the reveal of the celebrity contestants that they will not be coming back for Season 28, listing no specific reasons why. The show’s host, Tom Bergeron, tweeted a photo containing his statement on the announcement of Spicer’s casting that read —

“A few months ago, during a lunch with DWTS’ new Executive Producer, I offered suggestions for Season 28. Chief among them was my hope that DWTS, in its return following an unprecedented year-long hiatus, would be a joyful respite from our exhausting political climate and free of inevitably divisive bookings from ANY party affiliations. I left that lunch convinced we were in agreement. Subsequently (and rather obviously), a decision was made to, as we often say in Hollywood, ‘go in a different direction.’ 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. 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. For me, as host, I always gaze into the camera’s lens and imagine you on the other side, looking for a two-hour escape from whatever life hassles you’ve been wrestling with. That’s a connection, and a responsibility, which I take very seriously, even if I occasionally season it with dad jokes. Hopefully, when Erin Andrew and I look into those lenses again on September 16, you’ll be on the other side looking back, able to enjoy the charismatic pro dancers, the unpredictable judges and the kitschy charm that has defined DWTS since 2005.” — via Tom Bergeron’s twitter (@Tom_Bergeron)

According to CNN, other ABC staffers are “up in arms” over Spicer’s casting. 

Perhaps one of the most surprising reactions— provoking more outrage from the internet — was that of Karamo Brown, Spicer’s fellow celebrity contestant, who said that Sean Spicer is “a sweet guy” and claims they talked a lot. One of Brown’s messages as “culture expert” on Netflix’s Queer Eye is that no matter where people come from, there is always a way to find a middle ground and a way to grow together as people. Considering that many of the Trump administration’s policies work against the LGBTQIA+ community, many harshly criticized Brown’s approach towards Spicer and willingness to even engage with him. Brown’s twitter account was inaccessible

Of course, Trump also took to twitter to comment on Spicer’s casting, writing that he “just heard that Sean Spicer will be on ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ He [Spicer] will do great. A terrific person who loves our Country dearly!”

Is Spicer’s Casting The Wrong Direction For DWTS And ABC?

There is a time and a place for TV shows to become political, but does Sean Spicer’s casting on DWTS show a political preference? The question remains as to why DWTS and ABC would ever consider jumping into political waters on a show created solely for entertainment. Why did they offer two years prior after all the controversy surrounding Spicer’s time at and exit from the White House? For controversy, to get the ratings up, and get people watching which in turn will produce more revenue? Perhaps the show seeks to attract different viewers? Yet it seems that the announcement of Spicer may have the opposite effect and cause others — perhaps long time watchers — to not watch the show, which has aired since 2005. The casting of Spicer by ABC and DWTS appears to be a step in the wrong direction.

Margaret Valenti

Margaret Valenti is the Editor of Generation Z Voice at The Pavlovic Today.