Saddle up, Bravo fans, there's drama a-brewin' for Real Housewives of New Jersey — except this time, it's happening off-screen. By now, you may have heard that RHONJ star Melissa Gorga and producer/host Andy Cohen are reportedly being sued, but the more important question might be why are Andy Cohen and Melissa Gorga being sued?
According to Page Six, the suit was filed in federal court in Florida on Wednesday by a woman named Jackie Beard Robinson, who's described as "an entrepreneur and international fashion influencer." She reportedly seeks more than $30 million in damages for claims of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Bravo's parent company, NBCUniversal Cable, and Dorothy Toran, a production executive on RHONJ, are also named in the case, Page Six reported. (Bustle reached out to Bravo and a network spokesman said, “There is no merit to this lawsuit.” Bustle also reached out to reps for Cohen, Gorga, and Robinson, but did not receive an immediate response.)
As reported by The Wrap, Robinson alleges that Gorga hired her in 2015 to serve as the manager of Envy by Melissa Gorga, which operated a boutique clothing store in New Jersey, but the partnership dissolved when Robinson discovered that Gorga allegedly “misappropriated over $37,000 from Envy without authorization, among other things." By the end of 2016, the suit states, their business relationship had officially been severed, and Robinson removed her merchandise from Envy in January 2017. Robinson goes on to claim that she worked out an agreement with Gorga so that she could sell her merchandise and keep the proceeds, but that months later, during the Oct. 4 airing of RHONJ, Gorga and Cohen spun the situation much differently.
According to Robinson, Gorga claimed during the episode that she "snuck in in the middle of the night and took all the clothes." Cohen then purportedly asked, "Wow, so that lady wound up kind of ripping you off?" to which Gorga allegedly responded, "Yes." The suit claims those assertions are false, in part because Robinson claims she retrieved the merchandise “in broad daylight, not during ‘the middle of the night.'" Such accusations, the suit states, are "false, misleading, reckless, grossly negligent, negligent, and made with actual malice," and caused Robinson to be subjected to "ridicule, hatred, disgust, and contempt,” according to Page Six. Gorga and Cohen have not yet addressed Robinson's allegations publicly.
However, this isn't the first time RHONJ affiliates have been embroiled in legal controversy. Per The Hollywood Reporter, Housewives stars Chris Manzo, Albie Manzo, and Chris Laurita were named alongside BLK Brands in a 2011 lawsuit from a company called Creative Thinkers, which claimed, among other things, that the men's fame had been used to sell a false story about how the idea for a special bottled water product originated. None of the parties appear to have publicly commented, and the resolution is unclear.
That same year, People reported that two men — Adolfo Arreola and Jason Gomez — filed a lawsuit alleging a group of Real Housewives cast members beat them up in the Dominican Republic after Teresa Giudice popped a bottle of champagne all over their party. Among Arreola and Gomez's claims were that the champagne “caused severe eye irritation” for Arreola’s mother-in-law; that Teresa allegedly “laughed at, mocked, humiliated, insulted and physically approached” the offended party; and that stars including Joe Giudice, Albert Manzo, Albie Manzo, and Christopher Manzo allegedly attacked them "without provocation." It's unclear how either case resolved. Bravo released a statement to People saying RHONJ was not filming at the time of the incident, and that they believed the claims were without merit, but provided no additional comment. No further information seems to be available.
And perhaps most notoriously, Teresa and Joe Giudice received respective prison sentences of 15 months and 41 months for mail, wire, and bankruptcy fraud in 2014. They initially pleaded not guilty, but later changed their minds and entered a guilty plea. Teresa was released in 2015 after serving 11 months, while Joe didn't begin serving his sentence until March 2016, and is currently in prison.
So, while Robinson's lawsuit may be a serious matter, it's not new territory for RHONJ. Who knows? It may even end up being a storyline for the show.