Brown and Spicer (President Donald Trump‘s controversial former press secretary) will both be competing on the upcoming season 28 of the ABC series.
Spicer’s inclusion in the cast has sparked outrage amongst fans, considering the political aide was widely disgraced after he used the White House press podium to lie to and attack journalists during his tenure. He resigned in 2017 after months of tension with the president.
Brown, 38, was criticized online for saying he was looking forward to having “respectful conversations” with Spicer.
“First, I have no say who is on the cast and didn’t find out till this morning that he is on!” Brown tweeted on Wednesday in response to a fan who said they were “disappointed” in Brown for “lending his celebrity to this.”
“But I’ll tell you this… I’m excited to sit down w/ him and engage in respectful conversations,” he continued. “Only way things get better is if we try to educate those who have different POV than us.”
Later in the day, another Twitter user slammed Brown for calling Spicer “a good guy” and “a really sweet guy” in an interview with Access Hollywood.
“I honestly can’t stand people like you who post things like this and you reposted some bs about a comment Jonathan [Van Ness] said… just to flame the fire and get a reaction,” he tweeted, referencing a comment his Queer Eye costar previously made about Mitt Romney.
“We fight harder than your a– ever has for people of color and members of the LGBTQIA community,” Brown added.
According to Out magazine, Brown followed up on his initial comments and tweeted Thursday that as “a trained social worker,” his “first instinct is always to sit down and have a conversation.”
“But I understand how my comments could lead people to believe that I don’t understand the gravity of the situation. The personal is political,” he continued, per Out. “I’m reminded of it daily as a gay man of color. I know that representation matters — that it can affect change. I see you & I hear you. I’m bringing my personal message of love, equity & inclusion to the dance floor. I want it to eclipse & triumph over divisiveness & hatred.”
Brown — who first gained fame on The Real World: Philadelphia and became a political activist, working with the Obama administration on after-school programs for LGBTQ youth — has long advocated for conversations across the political aisle. In April 2018, he met with the office of Second Lady Karen Pence during a trip to lobby for arts funding. (His Queer Eye costar Jonathan Van Ness criticized this decision in a cast interview with Vulture, given Vice President Mike Pence’s anti-LGBTQ stance.) Plus, Netflix’s rebooted Queer Eye places the Fab Five in politically conservative areas in the hopes of opening minds and hearts as well as offering physical makeovers.
One person who did come out swinging against Spicer? Tom Bergeron, who hosts the show with Erin Andrews. He tweeted that he had hoped this season “would be a joyful respite from our exhausting political climate and free of inevitably decisive booking from ANY political affiliations.”
“Subsequently (and rather obviously), a decision was made to, as we often say in Hollywood, ‘go in a different direction,'” he continued, noting that he and the producers “agree to disagree” over the decision.
In response to the criticism, Spicer has said he’s “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 Wednesday. “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,” he said. “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.”
The cast also includes The Supremes’ Mary Wilson, The Bachelorette‘s Hannah Brown, supermodel Christie Brinkley, country star Lauren Alaina, actor James Van Der Beek, NFL legend Ray Lewis, The Office star Kate Flannery, pop star Ally Brooke, former basketball player Lamar Odom and comedian/actor Kel Mitchell.
Season 28 of Dancing with the Stars premieres Sept. 16 on ABC.