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Tom Bergeron details ‘betrayal’ that led to ‘Dancing with the Stars’ departure

In a new podcast, the Haverhill native opens up about his exit from the show.

Television host Tom Bergeron accepts Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program for "Dancing with the Stars" onstage during the 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 23, 2012.Kevin Winter

Tom Bergeron is spilling the tea over his contentious exit from “Dancing with the Stars.”

The Haverhill native, who hosted the hit reality competition series from 2005 to 2019, recently revealed the politically charged “betrayal” that led to his departure. Bergeron shared all the details with “DTWS” alum Cheryl Burke in an episode of the “Sex, Lies and Spray Tans” podcast, released on Monday.

The television personality told Burke of a lunch he had with producers of the show in 2019, where they asked him for input on the upcoming season. Bergeron explained that, due to the looming 2020 elections, the show should avoid booking guests with political ties.


“Nobody of any party, don’t go there,” Bergeron recalled telling the producers. “Just make us the wonderful escape from all that divisiveness.”

According to Bergeron, the executives initially agreed with his assessment, only to change tunes several weeks later. The former host revealed a phone call he had with a showrunner and another producer, where they unveiled a surprising addition to the celebrity cast: former White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

“This former showrunner says to me, ‘You might want to sit down for this last one.’ I said ‘Why?’ And then they told me who it was, the former press guy for Trump,” Bergeron said. “I said, ‘Guys, this is exactly what we said we wouldn’t do.’”

Jenna Johnson (subbing in for Lindsay Arnold) performs a jazz routine with Sean Spicer on the eighth week of "Dancing With the Stars" Season 28. ABC

Bergeron goes on to tell Burke that he would have felt the same way, regardless of the guest’s political affiliation, and even offered to compromise by taking a season off as host. The television star claimed they countered his offer by saying he could leave his contract.

“That really pissed me off,” Bergeron said. “I said, ‘Let me try to be Switzerland here,’ but I was furious.”

The situation led Bergeron to release a statement over the Spicer casting in 2019, which he tells Burke was an attempt to “let people know that they [expletive] lied to me” and that delving into political waters was “a step too far.”


Bergeron also recalled the amount of negative messages he received after the Spicer casting, which he felt was writing on the wall for his “DWTS” tenure.

“At that moment, I knew this is probably my last season, because of that one betrayal,” said Bergeron, who announced his exit from the show in 2020. “Up until that point, there were people of character there.”

Matt Juul can be reached at matthew.juul@globe.com.

Matt Juul can be reached at matthew.juul@globe.com.