Former “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star NeNe Leakes said in her racial discrimination lawsuit that Andy Cohen “sabotaged” her hopes of signing a lucrative deal with SiriusXM Radio for her own show. Leakes sued Cohen, Bravo, NBCUniversal and other executives in May in Georgia federal court.
Cohen has his own channel on SiriusXM, called Radio Andy, with programming that includes his own weekly show, “Andy Cohen Live.” Former Housewife Dorinda Medley also has a show on the channel. According to Leakes’ 74-page lawsuit obtained by Heavy, which can be read here, she and her team were in ongoing talks to “start a new show on SiriusXM radio.”
Leakes’ attorneys wrote that Cohen and Bravo, “interfered with, and sabotaged, this effort. Indeed, Cohen has admitted that he told SiriusXM that Mrs. Leakes would demand a lot of money for any role on a radio show, an obvious effort to prevent her from getting such a deal.”
Leakes Also Says Cohen & Bravo Executives Retaliated Against Her for Speaking Out
Leakes’ lawyers also wrote in the lawsuit, “She was also in development talks to do other shows, such as her own show. NBC, Bravo, and True had previously expressed support for these ideas. But now, they began to reject and turn a cold shoulder to the idea of additional shows or endeavors for Mrs. Leakes. At the same time, however, they did negotiate and close a deal with another RHOA: Kandi Burruss secured a deal for her own spin-off, ‘Kandi & the Gang.’ Mrs. Burruss had not been vocal in calling out the racially-inappropriate behavior over the years to the degree that Mrs. Leakes had been.”
According to the lawsuit, Leakes said that during filming of her final season on “RHOA,” she was “iced out and not regularly scheduled with the other housewives. Instead, the schedule provided to her by production consisted primarily of her filming without the rest of the housewives, often only with her own family.” They said that executives, at the same time, criticized her for not “integrating” with the other houswives.
“In reality, she was being put in an intentional Catch-22: she was denied opportunities to film with the rest of her fellow housewives by being scheduled to film without them, but simultaneously criticized for not integrating into the group,” her attorneys argue. “They also used other castmates to marginalize and ostracize Mrs. Leakes, and these individuals would report back to production any issues with Mrs. Leakes in an effort to further contribute to the hostility of the working environment.”
Leakes also said her decision to publicly call out Cohen and accuse him of “race-based mistreatment of her,” led to her being blacklisted by Bravo. Her attorneys wrote about a call she had with another executive connected to the “RHOA” production, Lauren Eskelin, who is also named in the lawsuit as a defendant:
More recently, Mrs. Leakes spoke with Eskelin. Again, the truth came out. Eskelin called Mrs. Leakes to discuss the passing of Mrs. Leakes’ elderly Aunt, who had effectively raised Mrs. Leakes. In this discussion, Eskelin acknowledged: ‘NeNe, I thought we could work this out but you called Andy a racist.’ With this, the truth came out. NBC, Bravo, and True have an unwritten rule: do not accuse us of race-based misconduct. And, certainly, do not accuse Cohen of it – even if he participated in, fostered, and turned a blind eye for years to it. Once Mrs. Leakes did that, her fate was sealed and her career with NBC, Bravo, and True was over. It was just a matter of time.”
Leakes’ lawyers wrote, “In short, to this day, NBC continues to stand behind and ratify its previous discriminatory offer to Mrs. Leakes retaliatorily refusing to negotiate fair, equitable and non-discriminatory terms with her. She has been sidelined and kicked-out of the ‘house that she built.'” They added:
Moreover, upon information and belief, NBC, Bravo, and/or True have actively worked behind the scenes to blacklist Mrs. Leakes, interfering with other potential employment ensuring that not only will she not work for them, but also that she cannot work for others. This is post-termination retaliation, and it continues to this day. Given Mrs. Leakes’ broad successful professional career to date, she is primed to be able to continue to work in the entertainment industry space. However, since her calling out the race-based mistreatment she received while working on RHOA, doors across the industry have closed on her. Upon information and belief, NBC, Bravo, and/or True are acting out of retaliatory animus to block her from obtaining other employment.
Lawyers for Cohen & His Co-Defendant Are Seeking to Have the Case Heard Behind Closed Doors Through Arbitration
Attorneys for Cohen and his co-defendants asked a judge in late June to allow them to have more time to respond to Leakes’ lawsuit while they work out the issue of whether her “RHOA” contract requires any disputes to be handled through arbitration in New York, behind closed doors. The filing from Cohen’s attorneys can be read here.
Leakes’ lawyers argued in their initial filing that she should be allowed to bring her civil lawsuit in federal court in Georgia and that she is not bound to have the dispute heard by an arbitrator. A judge has not yet made a decision on that issue.
In the filing from Cohen’s attorneys, they said, “Through counsel, Leakes and the NBCU defendants have engaged in substantive dialogue about the disputes relating to forum and/or venue. The NBCU defendants contend that this dispute is already subject to arbitration in New York pursuant to existing contractual arguments among the parties in this action. Plaintiff disagrees.
They added, “But, the parties are in the process of negotiating this issue in an attempt to avoid the time and expense of a motion to compel arbitration. The parties have agreed that a 45-day extension of time is appropriate to complete this discussions, or if an agreement cannot be reached, otherwise allow the NBCU defendants the time necessary to prepare their response to the complaint.” The extension until August 19, 2022, was granted.