Disturbing details from the lawsuit launched by former Real Housewives of New Jersey star Caroline Manzo have been released. Caroline is suing Bravo and Shed Media over the experience she says she had while filming the latest installment of Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip in Morocco.
Back in November, I wrote about the possibility of the show’s latest installment not even making it to air, and so far, it hasn’t. But if there was any lingering hope that it might air at some point, after this bombshell, it might never see the light of day.
In the lawsuit, Caroline alleges that during filming, Bravo and Shed encouraged Brandi Glanville to sexually harass her on multiple occasions while the show was filming in Morocco. She claimed Brandi was making moves on her in their rental home, forcing herself onto Caroline, and kissing her without her consent – and that’s just the beginning.
Caroline went on to say that after Brandi’s forceful attempt at a kiss, she mounted Caroline on the couch, holding her body down, forcibly kissing and humping her. Caroline went to another castmate, Alex McCord, for support with the issue, and she says production urged her to move past it and continue filming. In her lawsuit, Caroline shared how this incident triggered a sexual assault she experienced in her childhood, saying that Brandi’s behaviour "made all of these dormant and horrific memories immediately resurface."
These are some very damning allegations. And Brandi’s response, at least in part, is that production made her do it. In fact, that point seems to be one thing that Brandi and Caroline actually agree on. Throughout Caroline’s lawsuit, and through statements provided by her attorney, Derek Smith, it’s made clear that her team views Brandi as a bit of a puppet for Bravo and Shed, saying this in a statement to USA Today:
"We believe this case is about the networks selfishly sacrificing the wellbeing of their talent for ratings and profit. Brandi Glanville stated she was simply doing what the producers told her to do. Reality TV is leading to severe emotional and physical harm of its talent. This must stop. We are outraged by Bravo, Peacock and NBC's conduct and look forward to having the issues decided by a jury. Sexual harassment should never be entertainment!"
The rest of Brandi’s response is, of course, that she’s innocent, and in addition to pointing the finger at the production companies for encouraging her to pursue Caroline, her team also slams them for not supporting her in the wake of the allegations.
"She is innocent of these absurd accusations that have weighed on her mental and physical health for far too long without a word of support from Peacock, Shed (Media) or Bravo. This painful storytelling seems endless and needs to stop. She is looking to move on and upward and get her life back," a statement read.
It’s telling that Caroline made the decision to sue Bravo and Shed, also listing Warner Bros. Entertainment and NBCUniversal Media as defendants, instead of suing Brandi herself. And despite some people’s exhaustion with Bethenny Frankel, she explains the possible reasoning behind that decision in this video. The major takeaway from it is where she says:
“I believe that they were in a workplace that did have some guard rails. But the thing is that reality television is not a legal workplace. That’s how the contracts are designed.”
Over the last several months, this specific problem that she’s pointing out has been the main issue Bethenny has been highlighting in her campaign to take Bravo down: the lack of legalities of reality TV as a workplace and the lack of protection workers have within those settings. And though current castmates often reject Bethenny’s efforts, slamming her over what they feel is betrayal or hypocrisy considering how much she capitalized on her time with the network, it’s cases like this that really do show there is merit to the work that she’s doing in trying to assemble a union.
While I’ve covered other cases of sexual misconduct in the reality TV universe before, one of the key differentiators in this case, which Caroline points out in her lawsuit, is how much warning and notice production had about Brandi’s problematic behaviour in other shows. Caroline’s lawsuit accuses the show's producers of hiring Brandi despite "overwhelming prior notice of Ms. Glanville's prior deviant sexual proclivities and sexually harassing conduct," and I’m glad she included that, because it’s true.
We’ve seen several instances of her being completely unhinged in past seasons of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, so why go ahead and cast her for this show? Especially when you consider that for the most part, the women filming Ultimate Girls Trip shows together are often meeting and filming for the first time. It’s not like she has the rapport she might have had with her former castmates, like Lisa Vanderpump, who somehow managed to navigate this episode with a great deal of grace and patience after Brandi tried to force her to kiss before slapping her in the face and asking Lisa to slap her back.
In her video, Bethenny says networks are “scrambling” to make changes in consumption and workplace practices because of all the lawsuits they’ve been facing in recent months and will continue to face as time goes on. Like the one being levied by Leah McSweeney, which I mentioned here, after she vowed to refuse every offer made by Bravo and is actively seeking a trial instead.
With all of these lawsuits mounting, Bravo is really going to have to think quickly and work to make changes even quicker. Because at this point, with some of the shows being in a bit of a lull, until the premiere of Vanderpump Rules of course, the drama happening on-screen is beginning to pale in comparison to the drama happening off of it.