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The Real Housewives are turning on Bravo and Andy Cohen. Here's what to know about the lawsuits and turmoil behind the scenes.

Caralynn Matassa   

The Real Housewives are turning on Bravo and Andy Cohen. Here's what to know about the lawsuits and turmoil behind the scenes.
  • In February, Bravo was hit with one lawsuit and threatened with another.
  • Two "Real Housewives" stars have filed suits alleging mistreatment and a hostile workplace.

Is Bravo doomed?

The network, long beloved by reality TV fans for gifting us drama-filled franchises like "The Real Housewives," "Vanderpump Rules," and "Below Deck," is facing legal action from a number of former stars.

The underlying argument in all three claims is the same: They believe the network, associated production companies, and longtime host Andy Cohen are purposely fostering a negative working environment, rampant with favoritism and filled with toxicity geared toward maximizing the drama — often at the cost of stars' safety and well-being.

Here's a complete rundown of the lawsuits filed and threatened against Cohen and the network, and a look at the deep-rooted issues other stars say have been simmering there for years.

(Representatives for Bravo, NBCUniversal, and Peacock didn't respond to requests for comment. Shed Media could not be reached for comment by email or phone.)

Caroline Manzo filed a lawsuit against Bravo in January 2024

In January 2024, Caroline Manzo, formerly an original cast member on "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," filed a lawsuit against Bravo and other related entities, including NBCUniversal (which owns Bravo), Peacock (the streaming service that distributes the network's shows), and Shed Media (a production company behind several Bravo series).

In the complaint, viewed by BI, Manzo says producers "regularly ply the Real Housewives cast with alcohol, cause them to become severely intoxicated, and then direct, encourage and/or allow them to sexually harass other cast members because that is good for ratings."

Manzo first joined the show when it premiered in 2009 and left in 2014 after season five. She returned to the franchise for the fourth season of the spinoff "The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip," where cast members from various series within the franchise go on a vacation together.

Manzo points to an incident that happened in January 2023, during filming for "Ultimate Girls Trip," in her suit. According to the complaint, Brandi Glanville, a former main cast member on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" who was brought back to the franchise for "Ultimate Girls Trip," sexually abused and harassed Manzo during the season four cast's trip to Morocco, causing her "extreme emotional distress and other loss of enjoyment of life and other damages."

The filing describes how a drunken Glanville mounted Manzo on a couch, forcibly kissing and humping her. She then pressed herself against Manzo and fondled her without her consent again when they both went to the bathroom. The incident in question never aired — the entire season was shelved and its premiere date swapped with a different season, "The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip: RHONY Legacy," which aired instead.

In the filing, Manzo says she's seeking damages after Bravo discriminated and retaliated against her for speaking out about Glanville's harassment. She also accuses the network of plying Glanville "with copious amounts of alcohol so that she would act outrageous and sexually harass others" and "encourage and direct" Glanville to harass Manzo and others.

The complaint also points to several instances of Glanville's "sexually harassing and assaulting behavior" on other Bravo shows, claiming that the network was aware of her tendencies and continued to cast her regardless, undermining the safety of other cast members.

Glanville herself isn't named as a defendant in Manzo's suit.

Manzo's lawyer, Derek Smith, told Business Insider via email that Manzo didn't have additional comment, but shared the following statement:

"A production company's creative rights should never trump a cast member's safety. I get it: Shocking reality television brings the ratings," the statement reads, in part. "However, human decency requires that we put limits on that shocking behavior. We all have the right to work in an environment that is free of sexual harassment."

It continues: "People like Ms. Manzo should never be sexually harassed in order to get a 'good' shot. These are people. They are not pawns for production companies to abuse for ratings and profits. Fortunately, there are laws in effect to protect reality TV cast members."

Brandi Glanville threatened a lawsuit against Andy Cohen in February 2024

Glanville's attorneys sent a letter to NBCUniversal, Warner Bros., and Shed Media, which produced "Ultimate Girls Trip," threatening a lawsuit and accusing Andy Cohen of sexual harassment.

In the eight-page letter, viewed by BI, Glanville's lawyers claim that an "obviously inebriated" Cohen sent Glanville a video in 2022 talking about "his intention to sleep with another Bravo star that night while thinking of her and invited her to watch via FaceTime."

"Mr. Cohen was Ms. Glanville's boss at the time and exercised complete and total control over her career. This was an extraordinary abuse of power that left Ms. Glanville feeling trapped and disgusted," the letter reads. "It is inconceivable that Mr. Cohen remains in his post in spite of this behavior and harkens back to the bad old days of Matt Lauer and NBC News when profits were prioritized over people."

Cohen responded to the report in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

"The video shows Kate Chastain and I very clearly joking to Brandi. It was absolutely meant in jest, and Brandi's response clearly communicated she was in on the joke," Cohen wrote, referring to the "Below Deck" star.

"That said, it was totally inappropriate and I apologize," he added.

According to The Cut, Glanville's letter was prompted by Manzo filing her lawsuit in January.

In the letter, Glanville's lawyers also reference the Morocco incident in Manzo's lawsuit and deny Manzo's account that she did not consent to Glanville's interactions. They say there's "no truth to any allegations of impropriety" and claim the production team had encouraged Glanville's behavior in Morocco by making it "crystal clear to the cast that they were there to make good TV."

In an added statement to media appended to the letter, Glanville's attorneys took a swing at the wider reality TV industry, saying they've "heard from thousands of current and former cast members on reality shows about the physical and emotional harm inflicted on them by virtue of their participation."

"NBC, Bravo, Warner Bros., and Shed Media intentionally obscure their legal rights, bind them to illegal contracts, and knowingly cause them to suffer in silence," they write.

"We know there are untold numbers of innocent victims who have yet to tell their stories or seek legal redress. We encourage all of them to contact us and join our growing team as we fight for change in this sordid industry."

Leah McSweeney also filed a lawsuit against Bravo in February 2024

In another lawsuit filed in late February, former "Real Housewives of New York City" star Leah McSweeney, a recovered alcoholic, claims that Bravo, Cohen, and other parties encouraged her relapse after nine years of sobriety on "The Real Housewives of New York" season 12 in order to boost ratings and then punished her when she refused to return to drinking in future appearances on Bravo shows.

McSweeney, who appeared on "RHONY" in seasons 12 and 13, returned to the franchise for season three of "Ultimate Girls Trip," which began production in July 2022.

The 109-page complaint claims that the reality star was "discriminated against, tormented, demoralized, demeaned, harassed, and retaliated against" as a woman with disabilities, including alcohol use disorder, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

"Defendants established a rotted workplace culture that uniquely depended on pressuring its employees to consume alcohol," the complaint states, alleging that production "colluded" with McSweeney's costars to pressure her to drink.

The suit also says that production "employed psychological warfare" to "break" McSweeney, such as by implying they'd fire her and cut her pay if she left filming to visit her dying grandmother. It also claims that Cohen retaliated against McSweeney and publicly mocked her sobriety with the intent to blackball her from the industry. In 2022, McSweeney checked into a psychiatric hospital.

According to the complaint, producers and costars repeatedly questioned McSweeney about whether she was "still not drinking" or said they wished she was drinking, even though she repeatedly requested they not discuss her sobriety and alcoholism. It alleges that one Shed Media producer, Lisa Shannon, told McSweeney that she was "not the Leah we know and love" because she'd opted to stay sober for "Ultimate Girls Trip."

McSweeney ultimately filed a discrimination claim against her employers in March 2023.

The filing also alleged that Cohen regularly engages in "cocaine use with Housewives and other 'Bravolebrities' that he employs," that those people get "favorable treatment and edits," and that this is "well-known throughout the 'Real Housewives' franchise."

In a letter sent to McSweeney after her lawsuit was filed, obtained by People, Cohen's attorneys said the suit was "littered with false, offensive, and defamatory statements," calling McSweeney's allegations "categorically false." The letter also threatened legal action if McSweeney didn't retract her claims that Cohen uses cocaine.

"If you refuse to do so, Mr. Cohen reserves the right to hold you and your client accountable to the fullest extent of the law," reads the letter, according to People. "To be clear: these allegations are categorically false. Mr. Cohen never used cocaine with any cast member on any Real Housewives show or with any other Bravo employee."

Cohen's attorneys said in the letter that the allegations against Cohen were invented "in furtherance of a shakedown" intended to "force a settlement" between McSweeney and Cohen.

In response, McSweeney's lawyer told People that it was "hardly surprising" that Cohen had his attorney and PR team "write a threatening letter to give to the press."

"Mr. Cohen's attempt to discredit and intimidate Ms. McSweeney to deter her from engaging in legally protected activity in Court is exactly the type of retaliation that this lawsuit was brought to address and only is further evidence for Ms. McSweeney," McSweeney's lawyer said.

"We do not intend to litigate this matter in the press, and if Mr. Cohen wants to address Ms. McSweeney's claims, we suggest he do so in Court, not in a letter for the press," they continued.

McSweeney's lawyers had no further comment when reached by email. Cohen's lawyer didn't immediately respond to BI's request for comment.

Meanwhile, Bethenny Frankel has been crusading against the network for months

Bethenny Frankel, former star of "RHONY" who left the network behind for good in 2019, has been one of the most vocal Bravo alums voicing complaints about how the network's stars are treated and compensated, and calling for change. Frankel has made her issues known on her podcast, Just B with Bethenny Frankel. In July 2023, she called for reality stars to unionize in an effort to better their working conditions and pay.

In an interview with Vanity Fair for its investigation into the so-called reckoning at Bravo, Frankel spoke about her experiences at the network and how she'd been part of the problem.

"I was part of it," Frankel said. "I wanted to be Andy's favorite. I loved that I was Andy's favorite. I loved that I was able to make good television and produce it at the same time. I loved that producers knew I was the best. I was in the machine. I was the machine. I created the machine."

She also dubbed her organizing efforts her "penance."

Frankel's rep didn't immediately respond to BI's request for comment.

Cohen and Bravo have also faced accusations of racism in the past

Manzo, Glanville, McSweeney, and Frankel aren't the first Bravolebrities to accuse Cohen and the network of bad behavior.

In Vanity Fair's October 2023 Bravo investigation, Eboni K. Williams, a cast member on "RHONY" season 13, accused costars Luann de Lesseps, Sonja Morgan, and Ramona Singer of racist behavior that went unchecked by production.

Former "Real Housewives of Atlanta" star NeNe Leakes has also accused Cohen and Bravo of racist behavior, insinuating it's why she left the show. She filed a discrimination lawsuit against Cohen, the network, related companies, and other individuals in April 2022, alleging they didn't do anything to remedy racist behavior, but the suit was dropped in August that year.

In 2021, former "Real Housewives of Potomac" star Monique Samuels told Business Insider that Cohen held her "to a different standard" than the other Housewives in the season five "RHOP" reunion when discussing her physical altercation with costar Candiace Dillard Bassett. She also pointed to the lack of diversity among the production staff as a reason why her fight, a common occurrence in other "Housewives" franchises, appeared to be treated more seriously.

"You need to have that representation behind the scenes because not everybody understands other cultures that are outside [of] themselves," Samuels told BI. "If they did that then you wouldn't get so much heat once it airs. It becomes obvious that the diversity is lacking in that area."

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