When Dancing with the Stars announced the cast for the show’s 28th season, many were shocked and angered to hear that former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer would be joining the show’s lineup. Spicer’s prominent role in the Trump administration made the show’s choice an incredibly controversial one; even the show’s host, Tom Bergeron, publicly said that the decision went against the advice he gave to the show’s producers. Spicer said that he hopes that Bergeron will come to realize, “ … 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.” Spicer also stated that he hoped that the show would be a “politics-free zone.”
But it is important to keep in mind that President Donald Trump does not enact his policy alone and that Spicer and other people who choose to work for him should not be spared from judgement or criticism. To allow Spicer to participate in a televised dance competition without forcing him to acknowledge his role in helping Trump disseminate hateful rhetoric does the public a disservice.
Some people are more optimistic. Spicer’s fellow Dancing with the Stars competitor Karamo Brown tweeted, “I’m excited to sit down w/ him and engage in respectful conversations. Only way things get better is if we try to educate those who have different POV than us … I’m bringing my personal message of love, equity & inclusion to the dance floor. I want it to eclipse & triumph over divisiveness & hatred.” While Brown’s sentiments might have come from a place of empathy and willingness to create common ground, it is hard to listen to them considering everything that Spicer was responsible for during his brief term as White House press secretary and communications director.
The Spicer who will arrive on the dance floor ready to perform a tango is the same Spicer who originally claimed that Hitler did not use chemical weapons during the Holocaust before making an apology on CNN, which drew additional criticism. It is the same Spicer who falsely claimed that the crowd who gathered to watch Trump’s inauguration was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe,” and who defended the president when he incorrectly claimed that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election.
“Sean Spicer doesn’t get to be a folk hero,” writes Kevin Fallon for The Daily Beast. “He doesn’t get to be the fun-loving, humanizing catalyst that bridges a cultural divide.” The poor and dangerous choices that Spicer made during his time in the White House should not be brushed aside now that he no longer holds a political position.
Spicer is not the only former member of the Trump administration who is attempting to weave their way back into society’s good graces. Anthony Scaramucci, who served as Trump’s director of communications for 10 days, appeared on the second season of Celebrity Big Brother. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who served as Trump’s press secretary until July 2019, has recently also announced that she would be joining Fox News as a contributor.
Giving these people the opportunity to emerge as pop culture personalities allows them to gloss over their stints in Trump’s White House. As Kurt Bardella writes for NBC News, “The reality is Trump’s racist, sexist, destructive agenda is not an agenda of one … The people who help him do this are not innocent bystanders. They are not being coerced into participating. They are not helpless.” Treating former Trump employees like they are blameless and worthy of a second chance further normalizes their inexcusable behavior.
Annick Tabb is a senior double-majoring in political science and English.