9:28am PT by Rick Porter
Sean Spicer Responds to 'Dancing With the Stars' Backlash: "I Hope It Will Be a Politics-Free Zone"
Sean Spicer said he wants to have fun on Dancing With the Stars — and also leave politics at the stage door, which early reaction to the casting of the former White House press secretary suggests might be difficult.
The announcement of Spicer joining the show's 28th season, alongside James Van Der Beek, Christie Brinkley, Bachelorette star Hannah Brown and former NBA All-Star Lamar Odom, among others, sparked intense criticism of the show. That blowback included a statement from DWTS host Tom Bergeron, who wrote on Twitter that he hoped the coming season would be "free of inevitably divisive bookings from ANY party affiliations."
Spicer spoke to The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday.
"I hope it will be a politics-free zone," he said. "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."
ABC's only statement on the matter came from executive producer Andrew Llinares: "We've got a great and diverse cast. We are excited about the season."
Later on Thursday, Trump also weighed in, tweeting, "Just heard that Sean Spicer will be on Dancing with the Stars. He will do great. A terrific person who loves our Country dearly!"
Spicer had joked in the past that he wouldn't participate in Dancing With the Stars, but he now told THR he's had "an ongoing conversation" with the show after leaving the White House in 2017.
"I've got two business that have gotten off the ground successfully, and timing-wise, it was a great opportunity to do something completely different that I thought would be really fun," he said.
Spicer said he and the other contestants met Tuesday night, prior to the cast being announced on Good Morning America, and had friendly conversations: "I was really impressed with the caliber of people, but on a personal level, they were just really nice, good people, to a person."
Queer Eye star Karamo Brown, who's also part of the cast, tweeted Wednesday that he was "excited to sit down with" Spicer. He later told Access Hollywood, "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."
Spicer told THR he's hoping for something similar and that viewers will see the cast enjoying one another despite whatever ideological differences they might have. "From a cast standpoint, and the pros, we all seemed to hit it off. The criticism wasn't coming from the cast or the pros — obviously Tom had his opinion — but it's from the outside. Put it this way: Let's talk again in November, but not only is it possible, I think it will happen."
Spicer runs a political consulting firm that supports Republican candidates for office and is an adviser to the pro-Trump America First PAC. He said he's not restricted from political activity during his time on Dancing With the Stars.
"I'm not going to get into contract specifics, but they're well aware of my job and what my companies do," he told THR. "There's nothing I'm stopping or giving up."