Real Housewife Leah McSweeney Files Civil Suit Against Bravo and Andy Cohen

McSweeney’s filing—the latest in recent lawsuits by cast members—contains bombshell allegations of sexual harassment, a “rotted” workplace culture, and cocaine and alcohol abuse.
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Former Real Housewives of New York City and Ultimate Girls Trip: Thailand cast member Leah McSweeney has filed a civil suit in a New York federal court against Bravo and its parent company, NBCUniversal, as well as production company Shed Media and its parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery. The filing also names as a defendant Andy Cohen, the Bravo personality who is an executive producer of The Real Housewives and the host of the nightly talk show Watch What Happens Live. RHONY and UGT executive producers Darren Ward, John Paparazzo, and Lisa Shannon (an executive at Shed) are the only other individual defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed by McSweeney’s attorneys, Sarah Matz and Gary Adelman. (No defendants immediately responded to Vanity Fair’s requests for comment.) As Vanity Fair has already reported, all parties were previously named in a March 10, 2023, employment discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In October, that complaint was dismissed at McSweeney’s request on the grounds that she planned to sue the respondents in court.

The filing begins, “Where there is smoke, there is fire. Defendants discriminated against, tormented, demoralized, demeaned, harassed and retaliated against Ms. McSweeney because she is a woman with disabilities, such as alcohol use disorder and various mental health disorders, all in the name of selling drama.”

It describes “a rotted workplace culture that uniquely depended on pressuring its employees to consume alcohol” and states, “Defendants with the knowledge that Ms. McSweeney struggled with alcohol use disorder, colluded with her colleagues to pressure Ms. McSweeney to drink, retaliated against her when she wanted to stay sober, and intentionally failed to provide reasonable accommodations that would aid her efforts to stay sober and able to perform.”

According to the filing, “Shannon specifically told Ms. McSweeney, and upon information and belief, also told the other cast members, that Defendants terminated [Dorinda] Medley [from RHONY] because Medley transformed from a ‘fun drunk’ to a ‘mean drunk.’”

The filing states that, “upon information and belief,” Cohen “engages in cocaine use with Housewives and other ‘Bravolebrities’ that he employs.” It adds that he “tends to provide the Housewives with whom he uses cocaine with more favorable treatment and edits.”

The filing also says Cohen “repeatedly commented on Plaintiff’s breast augmentation surgery and implied that Plaintiff’s surgery allowed her to properly fit the role of ‘housewife.’”

Former Real Housewife Caroline Manzo has also filed a civil suit recently. Like McSweeney’s, her suit centers on the work environment at Ultimate Girls Trip (though a different season). And like McSweeney’s complaint, Manzo’s names NBCUniversal, Bravo, and Shed Media. NBCU’s streaming service, Peacock; Shed’s parent division, Warner Bros. Entertainment; and a Shed subsidiary called Forest Productions Inc. are also defendants. Executive producer Shannon is mentioned in both but not named as a defendant in Manzo’s suit. Manzo’s filing mentions co-executive producer Shanae Humphrey. The filing alleges that producers encouraged cast member Brandi Glanville to drink alcohol during production of Ultimate Girls Trip: Morocco so that she would “be more likely to commit outrageous and harassing acts, thereby helping Defendants’ ratings without regard to the rights and safety of those around her.” Manzo alleges that Glanville “groped, grabbed, and forcibly fondled Manzo’s vagina and breasts.” According to her filing, Manzo screamed for help, though no one from production intervened. (Glanville is not named as a defendant.)

In an interview for a story that was published several months prior to the lawsuit, “Inside the Real Housewives Reckoning That’s Rocking Bravo,” Glanville told Vanity Fair that producers had told her to “party” and given her shots of alcohol. “The whole point of these shows is to get us unhinged. If there was an issue or situation where someone was uncomfortable in Morocco, no one in production or the crew or cast intervened in the moment,” Glanville said to Vanity Fair at the time. (Manzo declined Vanity Fair’s requests for comment for that story and this one.) On a previous season of UGT, Glanville gave a lap dance to and tried to kiss another cast member, and ripped the shirt off a butler hired to appear in the season. (In October, the butler, Marco Vega, filed suit against the same defendants through the same attorney currently representing Manzo, Derek Smith. The filing also alleges that cast member Phaedra Parks “slapped” Vega “on his buttocks.” (Vega’s case is still pending; he declined to comment to VF.)

According to Manzo’s filing, on January 24, 2023, Shannon and Humphrey asked Manzo what happened in the bathroom, and Manzo cried, relayed the interaction, and said she never wanted to be alone with Glanville again. The following day, according to the suit, “Lisa Shannon and Shanae Humphrey asked Manzo to meet with Glanville. They told Manzo that the acts committed by Glanville were just her way of showing Manzo love as per Glanville. Despite the fact that Manzo was so emotionally distraught and despite the fact that Manzo asked not to be around Glanville, Defendants still wanted Manzo to meet with Glanville. Defendants were more focused on the continuation of the show rather than the health and well-being of Manzo after she was sexually abused.” Glanville and Manzo both left the set before filming ended and have not appeared on Bravo since.

Smith, Vega and Manzo’s lawyer, told VF, “We believe this case is about the networks selfishly sacrificing the well-being 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.” On January 31, a stipulation was filed stating the defendants must respond to the complaint by April 2.

On Thursday, February 22, Glanville’s attorney, Bryan Freedman, sent a letter to NBCUniversal, Shed Media, and Shed’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery. The letter states Glanville was “subjected to a vicious media campaign based on false allegations of sexual misconduct. The false narrative, which NBC and Shed Media have apparently decided to foment, arises from Ms. Glanville’s experience on Ultimate Girls Trip: Morocco.” The letter includes a notice of duty to preserve evidence for documents and correspondence related to Glanville and Manzo’s UGT experience.

The letter also describes a video recording that an “inebriated” Cohen sent to Glanville, in which he shared “his intention to sleep with another Bravo star that night while thinking of her [Glanville] and invited her to watch via Facetime.” After the letter became public, Cohen posted on X: “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. That said, it was totally inappropriate and I apologize.”

“Inside the Real Housewives Reckoning That’s Rocking Bravo” characterized Cohen’s relationship to Bravo this way: “The series and cast members orbit around Cohen, who described himself to me during a 2021 interview for New York magazine as their ‘boss,’ among other roles, including ‘father.’ It’s an unusual employment arrangement and a singular workplace.”

During the first day of BravoCon 2023, an audience member at a Q&A asked Cohen whether UGT: Morocco would air. Cohen, who is a co-executive producer on the show, replied, “There was a weird thing online that said it’s not airing. We had two [UGTs] in the can and basically just decided to push RHONY Legacy up because there was so much interest, and that’s the only thing that happened. RHONY Legacy jumped that spot in line.” He clarified the situation in a follow-up interview with The Wrap: “It’s there, it’s done, and I hope everyone sees it soon.”

When another BravoCon attendee asked about the “reality reckoning,” Cohen said, “I live in the joy these shows bring people. I think we all do.” He turned to the crowd and said, “Which is why we’re all here…to have fun!” The audience, some of whom had paid thousands of dollars to travel and attend, applauded.

After VF’s story was published, an unofficial Bravo recap podcast called Watch What Crappens posted an Instagram meme with the caption, “Vanity Fair breaks the news that adults drink and Ramona [Singer] is racist.” Cohen responded in the comments with a “crying laughing” 😂 emoji. Though Cohen declined to comment for the Vanity Fair story, after it was published, he told Variety and (the latter of which is, like Bravo, owned by NBCUniversal) that the article was “a factually incorrect rehash.”

Bravo moved forward with its relationship with Singer, casting her in two seasons of Ultimate Girls Trip despite corroborated reports of racism on the set of season 13 of RHONY, including the allegation that she used the N-word while speaking to a Black production member. However, amid the press coverage following the VF story, Singer was disinvited from BravoCon after she texted “n-g” to a Page Six reporter while denying she had used the slur. Several weeks later, she attended the UGT premiere.

Update: Although Cohen’s representative did not respond to Vanity Fair’s inquiries, his spokesperson issued a blanket denial to Deadline, saying that “the claims against Andy are completely false!”

Update 2: McSweeney’s case, which is in New York’s Southern District, has been assigned to Judge Lewis J. Liman, nominated to his position by former president Donald Trump. Liman, whose cases have included Michael Cohen’s retaliation suit against Trump, is the brother of director-producer Doug Liman, whose films include Swingers, The Bourne Identity, and this year’s Road House.

More Reporting by Anna Peele
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