Tom Bergeron, former longtime host of Dancing With The Stars, is opening up about his exit from the reality competition series. After hosting DWTS since its launch in 2005, Bergeron was dismissed in 2020 after being publicly critical of the show’s choice to cast Donald Trump’s White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in Season 28.
He divulged the details that led up to his departure in a conversation with DWTS alum Cheryl Burke on her Sex, Lies and Spray Tans podcast Monday.
More from Deadline
He told Burke he sat down with showrunners in 2019 and discussed potential contestants for the upcoming 28th season. At that time, he and showrunners agreed that the show would be a “wonderful escape from that divisiveness” of the 2020 election cycle.
He was then shocked to learn that the show had cast Spicer for the upcoming season.
“In the summer of 2019, I had two lunches—one with that showrunner person and another one with his boss,” Bergeron recalled. “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 run down 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 bulls–t.”
Bergeron was adamant that the show was going in the wrong direction and he offered to “take the season off.” Producers responded by offering to let him out of his contract.
“And that really pissed me off,” Bergeron noted, saying it was this move that led him to releasing his 2019 statement criticizing Spicer’s casting.
“So I wrote the statement that I wrote, that did not name anybody, that did not name a political party,” he said. “It merely said, ‘I was told certain things when I was asked my opinion, they agreed, and now they’ve thrown a curveball.’ I even went so far as to say it’s their right to do that. They’re the producers of the show, if that’s what they want to do they are entitled to do that. We will have to agree to disagree.”
“So at that moment, I knew this is probably my last season, because of that one betrayal. Up until that point, there were people of character there,” he added.
“They had screwed me. I’m gonna screw them,” he 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.”
Yet, Bergeron said the majority of his 15 years on the show was very positive. “I look at the math and 95 percent of my experience was really quite wonderful,” he said.
And no, he added he would never return to the show. “No never,” he shared. “Because it’s not the same show, it’s not the same world. I did it for a lot of years, there’s no point. What would I prove?”
Dancing With The Stars premiered its 32nd season on September 26 after the WGA reached an agreement with AMPTP. Season 32 also marks the return of DWTS to ABC. The show aired last season on Disney+. The new season simulcasts live on Disney+ and is available next day on Hulu.
Best of Deadline