The embattled former White House Press Secretary told CNN on Thursday, "I am very happy with who I am and who I support. I'm not changing. I am giving people another opportunity to see a side of me that is different."
The news that Spicer is joining the ABC celebrity competition series was met with immediate backlash. Even host Tom Bergeron spoke out to express his discontent with the decision to bring Spicer to the stage, releasing a lengthy twitter statement and later telling SiriusXm's EW Live he would have preferred "to avoid any political lightning rods" on DWTS. Bergeron added, "I think 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."
Spicer addressed Bergeron's comments directly in a separate interview with The Hollywood Reporter, saying, "I hope it will be a politics-free zone. 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."
CNN also reports that, behind the scenes, staffers at ABC News who worked with Spicer during his controversial tenure as the Trump administration's first Press Secretary are also "up in arms" about his new attachment to their network.
"It's a slap in the face to those of us who had to deal with his baloney and the consequences of the ongoing lies and disinformation campaign at the White House," one source told the news organization. Another claimed that Spicer was "horrible" to the ABC News staffers and added, "It's disgusting to think he is getting on the show and getting paid by our company."
In a statement from ABC on Wednesday, Dancing With the Stars executive producer Andrew Llinares said only, "We've got a great and diverse cast. We are excited about the season."
During his time at the White House, Spicer was known for making several misleading or false statements from the podium, including his insistence that Donald Trump's inauguration crowd contained "largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period" the day after his swearing-in ceremony. His turbulent press conferences became prime fodder for Saturday Night Live skits, and Melissa McCarthy won an Emmy for her work on the show thanks in part to her viral impersonations of him.
Rumors that Spicer might join the cast of Dancing With the Stars previously surfaced in 2017, and Spicer confirmed to THR that he had been considering appearing on the show since leaving the White House that year.
"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. He also called his upcoming co-stars "really nice, good people" and said, "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."
Spicer will share the stage with celebrities like Dawson's Creek star James Van Der Beek, All That's Kel Mitchell, and Queer Eye's Karamo Brown. The latter has publicly said that he intends to give Spicer a chance. Brown told Access Hollywood on Wednesday, "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."
Dancing With the Stars Season 28 premieres Monday, Sept. 16 at 8/7c on ABC.