When ABC executives cast Sean Spicer in Season 28 of Dancing with the Stars, they clearly did so with ratings in mind. We’d seen Spicer’s brand of celebrity used to spark conversation after a 2017 cameo at the Golden Globes, and, after all, CBS did cast former Trump cabinet members Omarosa Manigault and Anthony Scaramucci on Celebrity Big Brother in 2018 and 2019.
This week has seen some controversy about ABC’s decision. Host Tom Bergeron quickly made his feelings known, making it clear he disagreed with the casting decision. But Karamo Brown, the culture expert on Netflix’s mega-hit Queer Eye, seemingly welcomed the chance to rub elbows with the disgraced former Press Secretary. Hours after the casting announcement, Brown responded on Twitter to a fan who expressed their disappointment that Brown would participate in the show while Spicer was also involved. “I’m excited to sit down w/ him and engage in a respectful conversations,” he wrote. “Only way things get better is if we try to educate those who have different POV than us.”
Shortly thereafter came an interview with Access in which Brown defended Spicer directly, calling him “a good guy; a really sweet guy.” I found this statement mind-boggling considering Spicer’s track record, which includes him once telling a room full of reporters that Hitler did not resort to “using the gas on his own people” – and I posted the clip on Twitter in response.
That’s when Brown snapped back. “I honestly can’t stand people like you who post things like this and you reposted some bs about a comment Jonathan said… just to flame the fire and get a reaction,” he wrote, referencing a story I had written for Out Magazine in January in which I quoted Brown’s co-star Jonathan Van Ness throwing his support behind Utah Senator Mitt Romney. “We fight harder than your ass ever has for people of color and members of the LGBTQIA community,” Brown continued. Who was the “we” he was referring to, I had to wonder: him and Spicer? He’s since deleted the tweet and blocked me on social media.
Let me be quite clear: this was never about dragging Karamo or trying to paint him as being a certain way. This was simply about accountability.
This was never about asking Karamo to turn down the lucrative contract that the show offers, either; I certainly respect his ability to make his coin. This was about rhetoric that seems to not only normalize but praise people who have actively played a role in propagating the divisive ideas and policies of this current administration. Nobody in Trump’s government, past or present, deserves any kind of redemptive platform, least of all those who have shown no contrition for their own complicity.
To quote writer Naomi Shulman: “Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly and focused on happier things than ‘politics’. They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away. You know who weren’t nice people? Resisters.”