Former 'Dancing with the Stars' host Tom Bergeron has publicly admitted that the casting of "stars" like former Trump White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and this move toward more controversial choices is something he fought against.
In fact, speaking at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, executive producer Deena Katz said that this so-called "clickbait" casting is something they simply have no choice about. They have to do it.
She argued, per Deadline, that "unfortunately, in this day and age, have to do a little bit of that clickbait wow that gets people there. But the hope is that all of us are great storytellers. And at the end of the day, we're all telling really great stories in all different ways on this panel."
Speaking with Variety, Katz admitted that "the country is divided, so half of the people may have one political view and the other half have the other. At the core of it, we always just go for nice, good people." Polarizing choices like Spicer, though, may lead to half the country disagreeing with that last sentiment.
You can count former host Tom Bergeron among those who clearly didn't like the idea of Spicer being on the show as he spoke publicly out against that kind of stunt casting.
While Bergeron suggested he pushed against any polarizing casting in a post to then-Twitter in 2019, he also acknowledged producers have the power to make "make whatever decisions they feel are in the best long-term interests of the franchise." He added, "We can agree to disagree, as we do now, but ultimately it's their call."
Katz told reporters at the TCA on Saturday that the goal was for people to be able to overcome their perceptions and give people a chance. "My hope is that someone that maybe didn't like Sean Spicer because of his political affiliation, you're watching the show, and he's just a guy," she said.
"I think what we try and do is [show] it's more than that, that you get to know these people and you end up understanding that there are people you really like," she added.
At the same time, the show has strayed from political figures after the outsized response to Spicer's short-lived run on the show, with fellow executive producer Conrad Green telling Variety that "people are exhausted by politics."
This past season saw the show come under fire for the casting of Adrian Peterson, who was indicted in 2014 on a felony charge -- but pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of misdemeanor reckless assault -- for using a switch to discipline his four-year-old son, leaving the boy with cuts all over his body.
"We vetted Adrian, we met Adrian. We found out everything we needed to know. He went back to play in the NFL, everybody had checked out Adrian," Katz told Variety. "We took that as we did our due diligence. We thought he was a lovely family man, his wife is great and he was an amazing football player that had an amazing record."
Green added that "a lot of people make mistakes in their lives," saying that the show's producers tried to "take a broader picture of where they're at, where they are now."
The EP also said that producers intentionally cast lesser-known people like this past season's social media star Harry Jowsey -- who found controversy because he kept outlasting much better dancers on the show -- because they want to introduce people to other types of celebrities than they may be familiar with.
"Our hope is you start watching the show because of some people, but you end up staying in the show because you fall in love with others," she explained.