Former “Dancing With the Stars” host Tom Bergeron reunited with dancer and franchise veteran Cheryl Burke on the latter’s “Sex, Lies, and Spray Tans” podcast (via Entertainment Weekly) and reflected on his tumultuous exit from the long-running ABC reality competition series. Bergeron was the original host of the program and led the show for 28 seasons. He parted ways with “DWTS” after the 2019 season because the show executives did not listen to his advice about staying out of politics and cast Sean Spicer, the hugely controversial former press secretary for President Donald Trump, to compete.
“In the summer of 2019, I had two lunches — one with that showrunner person and another one with his boss,” Bergeron remembered. “I said, ‘Well look, 2019 is the threshold to an election year in America, we are a very divided country. Just nobody, of any party, don’t go there — just make us the wonderful escape from all that divisiveness for two hours a week.”
“And then a few weeks later, I get a phone call,” he continued. “And they rundown the list of who is going to be on the show, and this former showrunner says to me, ‘You might want to sit down for this last one.’ And then they told me who it was, the former press guy for Trump. I said, ‘Guys, this is exactly what we said we wouldn’t do. Don’t go there. This is not the right time, play to our strengths, be the show that gives people a break from all this bullshit.”
Bergeron said he floated the idea of taking the Spicer-starring season off and returning as host the following season, to which the execs allegedly told him they could just let him out of his three-year contract instead if he preferred. “And that really pissed me off,” Bergen noted, adding that it was this comment that led him to speak out publicly against the hiring of Spicer as a contestant. Bergeron maintained that he was against “DWTS” turning political and noted he would have spoken out against any political figure joining the show, even one that aligned with his political beliefs.
“My phone started blowing up. People were outraged,” Bergeron remembered of the morning Spicer got announced. “At that moment I knew, this was probably my last season. Because of that one betrayal. Because I’d been lied to by people who were in charge. Up until that point, there were people of character there.”
When he decided to post a statement criticizing the show for casting Spicer, he did not inform ABC execs because “they didn’t deserve to know.”
“They had screwed me. I’m gonna screw them,” Bergeron said. “But I wanted the viewers to know this was a step too far to me. This was a step too far on the cusp of an election year. And again — had it been a Democrat, same statement.”
Tyra Banks took over hosting duties starting with Season 29. She was joined by Alfonso Ribeiro starting with Season 31. Ribeiro and Julianne Hough took over hosting duties together with Season 32, which is currently airing on ABC.