Andy Cohen Breaks Silence on ‘Hurtful’ Housewives Lawsuits, Bethenny’s Criticism, & Leah’s Sobriety Sabotage Claims, Plus Rumors of John Mayer Romance, Which Wife is “Ideal” Cast Member, and Dream WWHL Guest

by Lindsay Cronin Comments
Andy Cohen Breaks Silence on Bethenny's Reality Reckoning, Leah's Claims of Sobriety Sabotage, and Says He Has "No Regrets," Plus Nearly Scrapping RHOC, Which Wife is the "Ideal" Cast Member, and Dream WWHL Guest

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Andy Cohen is addressing Bethenny Frankel‘s reality reckoning and the many lawsuits that have been filed against him and Bravo, as well as its parent company, NBCUniversal, in a new interview.

Amid allegations of drug use, alcohol abuse, racism, and sexism, the 55-year-old Watch What Happens Live host, who has been producing the Real Housewives franchise for nearly 20 years, looked back at his many years with the network as he reacted to Leah McSweeney‘s claims, shared why The Real Housewives of Orange County nearly didn’t make it to air, and revealed the biggest challenges he faces with the series today.

“Producing a show about politically incorrect women in 2024 is different than producing a show about politically incorrect women in 2009,” Andy said during a May 8 interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “In 2009, when one of the kids called his brother a fag, we left it in the show and then discussed it at the reunion episode. That was how two brothers talked to each other in 2009, and we saw it as a teaching moment. In 2024, you would immediately bleep that word, and it would trigger a whole furor. Today, someone on the show would probably say, “You can’t say that word anymore.” And then the viewers would go wild on Twitter. Sensitivities have changed over the years. Social media has a huge impact. There’s not a lot of room for nuance these days. We are living in an  now, and everyone has had to adapt to that.”

Although Bravo has been accused of being too slow to adapt, Andy, who said he “can’t speak” to Eboni K. Williams‘ claims of experiencing racism on The Real Housewives of New York City, stated that he was “proud” of all the work Bravo has put into making their shows more diverse.

George Floyd was an important cultural shift that forced us to look at all of our programming. Bravo made it a mandate to diversify its shows,” he revealed.

As for claims that he sabotaged Leah’s sobriety during her time on RHONY, which she alleged in her lawsuit against him and Bravo, Andy signaled to the many sober cast members they’ve had over the years, including her former co-star, Luann de Lesseps, 58.

“We have people who’ve never had a drink during the entire run of the show. Jill Zarin. [Kandi Burruss]. Heather Dubrow will just have an occasional glass of champagne. So sure, there are people who drink. There are many people who never drink. We don’t force anyone to do anything. But no one is secretly hiding liquor bottles on set. That’s ridiculous,” he stated. “We’ve been very supportive of people’s sobriety.”

Regarding Bethenny’s suggestion that reality stars should unionize for better pay, Andy pointed out that Real Housewives aren’t drafted. They either want to be there or they don’t.

“If you look at shows like American Idol, Survivor, The Bachelor[,] or the Below Deck people, 90 percent or more of the reality stars on them are on for one season or less. Also, acting is a full-time profession. You don’t go to school to be a reality star,” he noted. “Reality stars typically have other jobs. They’re bar owners, they’re designers. They’re doctors. I think the way that Bravo pays people is that it’s a buyout — they’re buying them out for a show that can be distributed in certain ways, and the longer you stay on, the higher your salary gets. And salaries for people who have been on a long time are really high.”

“You either see it as having some greater benefit for you or not,” he added.

Because he and Bethenny, 53, were quite close for years, Andy admitted to feeling hurt by her claims against him and the network before confirming he has no regrets.

“I’m super proud of what we’ve built and of everybody who’s been a part of it. I think most people involved with these shows have been very grateful for the platform, but there will always be a few with complaints. Obviously, it’s no fun to be a target. So, yes, it’s hurtful. But I have no regrets about the way I’ve handled anything,” he stated. “I know what the truth is and I know how I’ve conducted myself, and I walk tall every day on that.”

Following the successful hosting of BravoCon last year, fans were stunned to learn that the show would not be returning this year. But, as any shared, the event is no easy feat.

“Pulling that together is a massive undertaking — we had 150 or 160 Bravo stars there last year, plus 30,000 people and hundreds of moderators and press. And then we did five episodes of Watch What Happens Live in front of 2,000 people — it was just a tremendous amount of effort. And when it ended, I remember saying to [NBCU chairman] Frances Berwick, maybe we should skip next year or do it in a year and a half. It will be more special that way.”

“But ultimately it was a Bravo decision, not mine,” he added, shutting down rumors that he was to blame.

Looking back at his early years at Bravo, Andy confessed he didn’t initially think RHOC would be a success.

“It took a while, actually. We almost pulled the plug on the first season,” he revealed. “The production team we hired would rave about all the great scenes they were getting on tape, and when we watched them, it was just … underwhelming. I remember a meeting where we talked about if we wound up killing the Real Housewives, what would the loss be? By that time, we were $400,000 in, so we decided to just push forward.”

In the years that followed, Andy said the series developed into a “feminist show,” with women “finding themselves as sexual beings” and going “through traumas” and finding “great empowerment.”

When asked who epitomized that ideal the most, Andy first named Real Housewives of Atlanta star Porsha Williams, 45.

“She’s funny. She is open. She is someone that you root for. She’s vulnerable, she’s been on top, she’s been on the bottom. So, she kind of has everything, and you go along for the ride with her,” he detailed. “[Brynn Whitfield] on [RHONY]could wind up being that too. [Tamra Judge] on [RHOC]. Kyle Richards is another great example.”

Of the women who haven’t yet appeared on his shows, Andy admitted Tori Spelling, 50, “has made a lot of noise” about wanting to be part of them.

“She’d definitely bring great drama, but we’ve never really had a serious conversation about her for some reason. [But] I actually have mixed feelings about having stars on the show,” he explained. “When Lisa Rinna was trying out for season one of [The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills], I was very much against the idea … But then she came, and it made perfect sense.”

As for his dream WWHL guest, that honor went to Madonna, 65, although Andy said he’d “given up on her at this point.”

“At a concert recently, she called me a ‘troublemaking queen‘ because people have slagged her on my show. So I texted her a five-minute montage of me saying positive sh*t about her, so perhaps she got the message. But I am a troublemaking queen! I own that!” Andy noted. “Publicists consider me a dangerous stop on their clients’ press tour because I could ask anything. And I do.”

Moving on to dating, Andy joked that he’s “on all the apps.”

“I’m on Grindr, Tinder, Scruff, Hinge, Raya,” he shared. “[But] I got kicked off Grindr once because somebody reported me for impersonating myself. People are like, ‘Nice try. Why are you sending me Andy Cohen’s pictures?’ But once in a while it will work out.”

Andy also addressed long-running rumors that he is secretly dating his friend, singer John Mayer, as Andy denied the claims.

“Let them speculate! I honestly love John Mayer, and he loves me. But because we’re so affectionate toward each other, people don’t know what box to put that in. They assume we’re sleeping with each other, which we are most definitely not,” said Andy. 

Also during the interview, Andy was asked about his potential retirement.

“I’m getting tired of myself,” he admitted. “[But] I’m not getting tired of Bravo or of Watch What Happens Live. It’s still so fun for me.”