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Sean Spicer’s casting on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ draws backlash — including from the show’s host

Sean Spicer talks with reporters and members of the media outside the West Wing on July 25, 2017 — days after he announced his departure from the White House. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer will compete alongside Christie Brinkley, James Van Der Beek and other notables on the upcoming season of “Dancing With the Stars,” but show host Tom Bergeron isn’t on board with the casting decision.

After Spicer and his Season 28 castmates — the usual mix of athletes, singers, actors and reality stars — were announced Wednesday on “Good Morning America,” Bergeron tweeted an informal statement that did not mention Spicer by name but clearly addressed his addition to the cast. Bergeron said he met with the show’s new executive producer a few months ago, and thought they agreed the reality competition’s upcoming season should “be a joyful respite from our exhausting political climate and free of inevitably divisive bookings from ANY party affiliations.”

“Subsequently (and rather obviously), a decision was made to, as we often say in Hollywood, ‘go in a different direction,’ ” the veteran host added. “We can agree to disagree, as we do now, but ultimately it’s their call.”

Bergeron had hinted at his displeasure — albeit, in a less serious tone — on GMA, where he joked, “The nice thing is that Sean will be in charge of assessing audience size.”

Bergeron isn’t alone in his sentiments about the former aide. Exhibit A: the many harsh replies to Spicer’s tweet celebrating the announcement. “He danced around so many questions while he worked in the White House that this should be a piece of cake,” one user wrote.

Spicer began his White House tenure with the infamous (and provably false) claim that President Trump’s inauguration drew the largest crowd ever. He later said he “absolutely” regretted the declaration, which resurfaced on social media following the DWTS announcement — along with other blatantly dishonest comments Spicer made during his six months in the White House.

Many brought up his troubling claim that Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” while discussing the Trump administration’s stance on alleged chemical weapons use by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Others referenced his consistently contemptuous treatment of journalists, tasked with covering all aspects of the administration.

Wednesday’s announcement reignited backlash surrounding Spicer’s post-White House public image. He was rumored to be in talks with DWTS after leaving the White House in 2017, the same year he made a controversial appearance at the Emmy Awards. Critics framed that cameo as an attempt to “normalize” Spicer and the false statements he made on Trump’s behalf. Other former Trump aides, including Anthony Scaramucci and Omarosa Manigault Newman, have faced similar criticism as they have attempted to rebrand themselves with late-night talk show appearances, tell-all books and drama-filled stints on “Celebrity Big Brother.”

Spicer, who recounted his White House days in a widely panned 2018 book “The Briefing,” already has a legacy of sorts in the entertainment world. His run as press secretary was indelibly portrayed on“Saturday Night Live” by Melissa McCarthy — whose work got far better reviews.

“Dancing With the Stars” will return on Sept. 16, after skipping its typical spring season — a move that may be part of the reason behind Spicer’s eyebrow-raising casting. Andrew Llinares, the executive producer Bergeron alluded to in his Twitter statement, told USA Today that the show wanted to make its long-awaited fall season “feel like a big annual event.” ABC has not yet responded to a request for comment from The Washington Post.

This season’s other cast members include: “Queer Eye” co-host Karamo Brown; Fifth Harmony alum Ally Brooke; country singer Lauren Alaina; Kel Mitchell (of “Kenan & Kel” and “All That” fame); Mary Wilson, a founding member of the Supremes; former NBA star Lamar Odom; “The Office” actress Kate Flannery; former NFL linebacker Ray Lewis, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year; and the network’s most recent “Bachelorette,” Hannah Brown.

And while Bergeron has reservations about Spicer’s casting, it appears the former White House press secretary’s fate on the competition will rest with the audience (and judges) alone.

“Dancing, at its best, is an oasis away from all the divisiveness and all of the stuff that we’re all wrestling with right now … my job as host, to the best of my ability is to be Switzerland, for those two hours a week,” Bergeron told SiriusXM’s Dalton Ross on Wednesday. “For the other 166 hours a week, I’m pretty clear where I stand, politically.”

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