Karamo Brown is opening up about the backlash to his initial response to Sean Spicer‘s casting on Dancing with the Stars.
On Thursday’s episode of Catt Sadler‘s Naked podcast, the Queer Eye star opened up about catching heat for his decision to not outwardly disapprove of Spicer’s casting. Instead, Brown noted at the time that he looked forward to having “respectful conversations” with President Donald Trump‘s former press secretary, which sparked outrage online. (The political aide was widely disgraced after he used the White House press podium to lie to and attack journalists during his tenure; he resigned in 2017 after months of tension with the president.)
Following the backlash, Brown temporarily deactivated his Twitter account and turned off the comments feature on his Instagram. The star told Sadler his break from social media came after his sons began receiving “death threats” over the controversy.
Brown, 38, recalled a particularly scary instance where his son was chased down the street in Philadelphia while people yelled profanity at him.
“He was running home because somebody was in a car chasing after him in the car screaming at him! ‘F you and your dad! You’re going to die!’” he said. “That’s what I don’t like. That’s the part that really makes me emotional and gets me upset. When I have to squeeze my hands — the Daddy protective in me is just like, don’t do that.”
“The hate started coming at me. And normally I can handle the hate, because I’m okay with having constructive conversations, but what I realized is that places like Twitter, you can’t have constructive conversations,” he continued. “It’s the mob mentality. And so once the mob feels like they have their target, they’re going to get you. … And then it was really the first tweet I saw where they @ my child as well — I was like, done! And I got off of it.”
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Looking back, Brown said he understands the controversy.
“To be honest with you, I understood why people got upset,” he said, adding that he did not know about Spicer’s casting until the moment it was announced. “I am not delusional. I’m with them. You know seeing someone lie to the American public and be a part of an administration that is hurting us, it was bad.”
Brown explained that his initial conversation with Spicer, 48, was pleasant and admitted that he based his comments on that interaction.
“My natural instinct is to be kind to every human being. It’s always my natural instinct,” he said. “I literally said, ‘I don’t want to talk to you about politics right now because I would like to get to know you really quickly so that we can then grow to have a respectful conversation where we can talk about this.’”
“I was like, ‘I’m not going to sit here and pretend like we’re not going to talk about what you said and what has been done,’” he continued. “But this was not the moment. We’re about to walk onto GMA and then do a press tour. This is not the moment for me to have that conversation. I’m going to acknowledge that we must have it, but this is not the moment.”
“It was maybe a three-minute interaction,” he added. “Three minutes and I was like, oh that was nice. I then open up my big mouth which is normal for me. And I get it.”
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After the casting news, Brown — who first gained fame on The Real World: Philadelphia and became a political activist, working with the Obama administration on after-school programs for LGBTQ youth — responded to a fan on Twitter who said they were “disappointed” in him for “lending his celebrity to this.”
“First, I have no say who is on the cast and didn’t find out till this morning that he is on!” he tweeted. “But I’ll tell you this… I’m excited to sit down w/ and engage in respectful conversations. Only way things get better is if we try to educate those who have different POV than us.”
The tweet was widely criticized, and Brown also caught heat for calling Spicer “a good guy” in an interview with Access Hollywood around the same time. Reflecting on it with Sadler, he said he doesn’t regret his word choice.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t,” he said. “Because in our interaction, he was, and I know that sounds crazy because again, I understand. I’m not trying to be delusional — you know I’m somebody who has worked with many politicians to try to fight against things that this administration has done and is doing. But again, he was a human being that was nice in that moment.”
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Nevertheless, Brown said he’s learned from the experience.
“The thing is, I don’t regret saying what I said … every lesson teaches me something more,” he said.
Brown and Spicer are both currently competing on Dancing with the Stars, which airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.