Dancing With the Stars' casting decisions for season 28 have been, let's say controversial. Well, one casting decision in particular: Sean Spicer.
The former White House press secretary and communications director is competing alongside the likes of The Bachelorette star Hannah Brown, Queer Eye's Karamo Brown, Christie Brinkley, Lamar Odom and The Office's Kate Flannery. Longtime host Tom Bergeron posted a lengthy note after the cast was announced, decrying Spicer's involvement.
However, Andrew Llinares, the new executive producer on Dancing With the Stars, is standing by the casting and said, "We've got a great and diverse cast. We are excited about the season."
Still, Spicer's casting hasn't sat well with some viewers, including members of the ABC family.
"I deeply abhor this decision by the company I work for and truly love. This man lied daily, to our faces, and made a mockery of our country. This is not cause for celebration or celebrity. It's not too late to change this plan," Grey's Anatomy and Station 19 showrunner and executive producer Krista Vernoff tweeted, tagging the accounts of Dancing, ABC and Disney honcho Robert Iger.
Spicer has defended his involvement with the series. "I would love America to love me in a non-polarizing way. It'd be a great opportunity. I think for a lot of folks there was a very one-sided view of who I was and the opportunity to see that was me going back and forth with reporters at a podium...also I was speaking for somebody else. This is an opportunity to be who I am as myself and give people a view they may not have seen during my tenure there."
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Spicer said he hopes the dancefloor will be a "politics-free zone."
"My hope is that at the end of the season, Tom looks back on this and realizes what a great example it was of being able to bring people of really diverse backgrounds together to have fun with each other, engage in a real civil and respectful way and maybe show millions of Americans how we can get back to that kind of interaction," he said.
After Spicer's casting was announced, Bergeron tweeted he urged producers to not cast any political figures.
"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 in Hollywood, ‘go in a different direction,'" Bergeron said in a statement posted to Twitter. "For me, as host, I always gaze into the camera's lens and imagine you on 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."
How apolitical the series is remains to be seen. Dancing With the Stars premieres Monday, Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. on ABC.