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Worst Dancing With the Stars Contestants
When the 28th season of Dancing with the Stars was announced, one name in particular elicited the exhausted groans of the collective public: Former Donald Trump White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Soon afterward #BoycottDWTS began trending on Twitter. Even Tom Bergeron, the longtime apolitical host of the series, released a statement alluding to the fact that he was disappointed with the decision. Though it’s a stretch to consider him a star, and he dancing ability is in no way high enough to warrant softening and normalizing a man who peddled lies to the American public for a racist, immoral president—Spicer will almost certainly appear on the show next season.
But the thing about Dancing with the Stars is that this is hardly the first time the series has cast a controversial character and definitely not the first time it’s stretched the definition of star. In fact, Dancing with the Stars is practically a redemption vehicle for stars who need to win back the graces of Baby Boomers who tout the biannual series as their Monday night guilty pleasure. Paula Deen rebounded after her plantation party snafu with a ninth place finish a few years back. Ryan Lochte’s all-American seventh place finish helped erase some of the damage of allegedly fabricating a Brazilian robbery. And lest we forget, former Presidential-hopeful-turned-Trump’s Secretary of Energy Rick Perry lasted two weeks on his season just a short three years ago.
So let’s go back and revisit the worst contestants tapped to quickstep their way into the good graces of the American public. How do you achieve the American Redemption Dream? With a blouse adorned with fringe, of course.
10. Sadie Robinson
After the Duck Dynasty crew botched more than a few interviews and crossed the line between staunchly conservative and perceivably bigoted, the Robertson clan sent Sadie onto DWTS. The most innocuous of the bunch, Robertson fared very well her season despite the ongoing storyline that the Dynasty crew would need to approve all outfits and dances to ensure they were in line with their values.
9. Ryan Lochte
One of the few (perhaps only) contestants to have a protestor rush the DWTS stage, Americans were pissed when the Olympian allegedly fabricated a Brazilian robbery. His turn on DWTS was his redemption arc and a good reminder that in this case, Americans wanted a Lochte who just… stuck to what he does best.
8. Geraldo Rivera
Season 22’s dancing mess was Fox News reporter Geraldo Rivera, whose dance moves are about as unsure as his political leanings. Rivera’s reputation, especially in his 2016 season, was less about redemption and more about the promise of a spicy divide between viewers.
7. Kate Gosselin
Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. It’s the paso doble that still echoes throughout the hallowed halls of reality television. The overbearing matriarch of Jon and Kate Plus 8 came on DWTS to show the world who she really was, which ended in a combative on screen relationship with her partner and one of the most iconically terrible dances to ever appear on the small screen.
6. Bristol Palin
Here’s the issue: Bristol Palin was good on DWTS, which is the ultimate redemption in a way. Coming off the tumultuous campaign trail where her mother, Sarah Palin, lost her bid to be the Vice President of the United States (let’s call it what it was), Bristol discovered to her own surprise that she knew her way around a dance floor.
5. Paula Deen
Nothing will ever erase Paula Deen doing a jazz routine to Madonna’s “Vogue,” in Marie Antoinette garb. But it was enough to slightly erase the fact that she tried to plan a plantation party with black servants. Let them eat cake, y’all!
4. Marla Maples
It’s very easy to cast judgment on DWTS for casting Sean Spicer, but in 2016, there wasn’t as much to be said about casting Trump’s ex-wife Marla Maples. Trump’s name was a frequent refrain that season, and their daughter Tiffany even appeared in the season to support her mom.
3. Rick Perry
Testing the waters of insanity, Rick Perry was cast the season after Marla Maples. This is the Secretary of Energy now. That’s it. That’s the video caption.
2. Tucker Carlson
There’s so much to be said about Tucker Carlson’s turn on Dancing with the Stars. Three years before he joined Fox News, he was an MSNBC host just looking for a good jive song. Most notably, he’s managed to keep the same hairstyle for over 13 years. Yes, it was a different time, but it goes to show how the mightiest cable news men have sassy starts.
1. Sean Spicer
And then there’s Sean. He’s yet to dance, but he’s the most offensive in a way because as times become more and more divisive, there are less excuses to hide behind. The reality is that reality (TV) is the next clear step in a public redemption story. Now it’s up to the public to decide how many sambas it takes to undo a travesty.
Justin Kirkland is a writer for Esquire, where he focuses on entertainment, television, and pop culture.