Does Bravo Have a First Amendment Right to Get Its Stars Drunk?

real housewives of new york
Despite the new guidelines, NBCU is maintaining that featuring tipsy talent is its prerogative. Naturally, this is a messy debate. Photo: Courtesy of Bravo
Eriq Gardner
June 11, 2024

Back in February, former Real Housewives of New York star Leah McSweeney filed a sensational lawsuit detailing abuse she claims to have endured as a cast member on the show. Of course, reality TV is no stranger to offscreen legal drama (particularly lately), but McSweeney’s allegations are genuinely striking. She claims executive producer and franchise megastar Andy Cohen gave more favorable edits to housewives who snorted cocaine with him (he has vigorously denied this) and that he once congratulated McSweeney on a boob job. (She texted back, “Thank you! Can’t wait to get naked next year and show them.” Make of that what you will.)

But at the center of McSweeney’s 109-page complaint is the assertion that the show “weaponized” her alcoholism. She alleges that producers refused to support her sobriety, prodded her into drinking, and exploited her relapse for a salacious storyline during an infamous cast trip to Rhode Island. McSweeney says she regained her sobriety only to be mocked for past behavior and told she was becoming a bore. The relationship between producers and McSweeney deteriorated, leading to her exile from the Housewives clan. She now claims that producers violated both New York and federal law, including the Americans With Disabilities Act.