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The cast for the 28th season of ABC’s popular show “Dancing With the Stars” was announced on Wednesday. The lineup includes the types of celebrities that fans have come to expect, such as supermodel Christie Brinkley, actor James Van Der Beek and former Super Bowl MVP Ray Lewis. The involvement of one cast member, however, has been the source of controversy: former Trump administration press secretary Sean Spicer.
Spicer was the chief spokesperson for the White House during the first six months of the Trump presidency. He gained national notoriety for his emphatic argument that President Trump’s inaugural crowd was “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period.”
Spicer reportedly turned down an offer to appear on “Dancing With the Stars” after he left the White House in 2017. Since then he has pursued a series of professional opportunities, including releasing a book, shooting a talk show pilot and becoming a correspondent for “Extra.” He also holds a leadership position at a pro-Trump super-PAC.
Why there’s debate:
The announcement of Spicer’s role on “Dancing With the Stars” sparked outrage among those who believe he used his time as White House press secretary to spread lies and defend immoral actions taken by the administration. ABC’s choice to include him in the show — and reportedly pay him six figures — is “a slap in the face” to members of the network’s news organization who were misled by him, an unnamed ABC News staffer told CNN.
The show’s host, Tom Bergeron, released a statement saying he had hoped the show might provide “a joyful respite from our exhausting political climate.”
Spicer’s defenders argue that the backlash ignores the substantial portion of the country that supports the president. Others point to the fact that the show has a history of featuring prominent conservative figures, like former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and ex-Texas Gov. and current Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.
One of Spicer’s fellow cast members, “Queer Eye” star Kamaro Brown, said the show’s diverse casting is an opportunity for people with opposing views to “meet in the middle” and “help each other both grow.”
If his comments since his casting was announced are any indication, Spicer’s run may be brief. He has described himself as a “horrible dancer.” President Trump tweeted his support of Spicer's latest gig, saying "He will do great." The new season of “Dancing With the Stars” premieres Sep. 16.
Spicer’s actions as press secretary are unforgivable
“Spicer perpetrated massive fraud against Americans and propped up a white supremacist in the Oval Office. He should be on a permanent public blacklist, not in a televised waltz.” — Charlotte Clymer, the Independent
A significant percentage of Americans support the work Spicer did for Trump
“Fifty percent of the country is going to be watching, and they’re conservative and they support this president and this administration.” — Ainsley Earhardt, Fox News
The backlash gives ABC the publicity it was hoping for
“That reaction, overwhelmingly negative though it may be, is exactly why ‘Dancing With the Stars’ cast Spicer in the first place. Even if viewers don’t stick with Spicer week to week (and who knows how long he’ll actually last), there will inevitably be a burst of initial curiosity to boost the premiere ratings.” — Caroline Framke, Variety
His inclusion is an insult to ABC News journalists
“This is [the] same Spicer who misled, deceived and flat-out lied to the press and American people during his brief stint as White House spokesman. … There are hard-working people at ABC in the news division whose jobs were made difficult specifically because of Spicer.” — Tom Jones, Poynter
Political figures should not be celebrities
“Another issue with the presence of ‘celebrities’ such as Spicer is this: Since when do politicians qualify as stars? It says something about our society when we elevate politicos to the same status as entertainers.” — Madeline Fry, Washington Examiner
Spicer is still working to benefit Trump
“Spicer’s attempt at rehabilitating himself — even if it means subjecting himself to the humiliation of dancing in public in costume (just ask Rick Perry) — should not be confused with distancing himself from Trump; Spicer works for a pro-Trump super-PAC, and the president recently appointed him to the US Naval Academy Board of Visitors.” — Pema Levy, Mother Jones
Spicer’s attempts to laugh at his own lies shouldn’t be rewarded
“To treat Spicer, and his reason for notoriety, as a harmless joke is to whitewash the harm of what he did, which was to say things so absurdly false that he invited his political side to join him in denying their own eyeballs, to encourage people to believe that facts don’t matter if they hurt your team.” — James Poniewozik, New York Times
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Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP, ABC