It is, once again, not looking great for Real Housewives of Orange County star Kelly Dodd. After declaring that she's Black on the RHOC reunion, posting her 23andMe results on Instagram as proof (she's apparently 4 percent Black, but believes that's enough to claim blackness despite being white and mestiza Mexican), she attempted to dox a Bravo fan account, inciting harassment against an innocent bystander in the process. Whew!
Dodd has long been a controversial figure in the Real Housewives world, but 2020 saw the often reactive wife of a Fox News correspondent make racist statements against the Black Lives Matter movement, Kamala Harris, and others, and spread disinformation about COVID and mask wearing, leading many viewers and Bravo fan accounts to boycott the season and call for her firing. Her recent actions prove she's learned nothing, and points to Bravo's inability to hold its most problematic stars accountable consistently.
Samantha Bush, who ran the popular Bravo fan account Bravo Historian since 2018, was the most recent target of Dodd's online ire. Bush, who had recently appeared on an episode of Bravo executive producer Andy Cohen's last night talk show Watch What Happens Live, posted a Story from Dodd's Instagram account that showed Dodd and a group of friends at RHOC co-star Emily Simpson's birthday party. In one video, a woman named Deanna Linn, a friend of Simpson's that was in attendance, threw up an OK sign twice with her hands. Bush pointed out that the gesture has been co-opted by the far right and has become a symbol of white supremacy, and is listed as a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League.
Here’s the video in question:
“I posted it on Twitter and I said, like I can't believe this is happening,” Bush told VICE. “Emily and Kelly are hanging out with this woman who's doing this and basically, if I could swear, like get her the fuck off the show. After everything that she has done, I cannot believe we're still having to watch this person and she's still able to have the platform that she has.”
Bush said she didn't think much of it until she woke up to a ton of messages from people saying Dodd was coming after her. Bush's tweet did, indeed, set Dodd off on Twitter and Instagram. She called Bush a "dumbass" and said it was Bush who was twisting the meaning of the symbol. "Of course it’s a white girl making such an idiotic leap. @BravoWWHL this is who you have on? This chick is a moron."
At some point, someone must have schooled Dodd on the OK symbol's connection to white power groups, and she eventually admitted to being "aware of that (now)" but said it wasn't the intent. Still, many aren't buying it. And Dodd, as usual, leaned on her ethnicity to defend and excuse her racism, and to insinuate that neither she nor her co-stars would align with racists and that “minorities,” including her, were in attendance, so racism not possible! Dodd has proven herself to be no expert on critical race theory, but as her own step daughter pointed out, it would benefit her to learn the difference between race, ethnicity, and nationality as well as educate herself on white privilege and using multiculturalism as a shield against accountability, something she has done time and time again. Also, this bears repeating: having 4 percent Black or African ancestry does not make someone Black.
Dodd was so enraged by the accusations that she was doing shots with an alleged white supremacist that she went after Bush in a way that Bush feels incited Dodd's fans to harass her. "I never engaged with her," said Bush. "I never responded. I was never in a conversation with her. I thought it would die out by noon. And it didn't. It just kept going, all day long." The nasty messages led Bush to go private and change her name on social media to protect herself. Then Dodd went a step further, going on Instagram Live to trash Bush. "My friends were filling me in on the situation because I couldn't really see it, but 90 percent of people were agreeing with me," Bush said. "I think that that's what was triggering to her."
Dodd posted a screenshot of what she claimed was Bush's LinkedIn account, tagging her employer, calling her a "snake" and encouraging them to “take a look at [their] employee.” Except it wasn't Bush's profile. It was the account of a different woman with a name similar to Bush, putting her job at risk and leaving her open to harassment. “This poor girl is just trying to do her job and who knows what's happening to her,” said Bush. “I feel terrible for her.” Dodd deleted the post once she realized the mistake. We reached out to the woman whose profile Dodd shared, but have yet to receive a response.
“I think attacking people that way she has has been very weird,” said Bush. “I've never seen anything like it.” Dodd has certainly never been one to hold back, and Housewives in general are no strangers to online beefs. Quite a few people behind popular accounts have been blocked by stars of the franchise because of their posts, and Housewives have responded to criticism, sometimes harshly, on those accounts' comment sections. That said, it's rare for a Housewife to blow up in such a way, but it's no surprise that it would be Dodd who took it that far. "That's not okay," said Bush. "The intent was there, and I don't think that that's right."
Moderators of other popular fan accounts agree. “Speaking as someone with a voice in the Bravo community, there is an understanding when it comes to these kinds of sensitive topics that people will disagree with you strongly,” said Sarah Galli, host of the Bravo-centric podcast Andy's Girls who has openly criticized Dodd. “Sometimes people react to that in a way that is seen as unhealthy, toxic, or abusive. But there's also an expectation that you're not going to get that from current talent. The idea that they ultimately have to report somewhere and aren't going to behave [this way]…Doxxing Bravo accounts isn't appropriate for anyone to do let alone a current paid employee.”
On screen, Dodd infamously fights dirty, unafraid to cut deep or get nasty when she feels attacked. These blow-ups are what made her such a mesmerizing figure perfectly poised for reality TV. But as her racism and ideological beliefs have reared their ugly heads, it's become untenable for fans who once supported the franchise. Bravo fan accounts are an important part of the Bravo community, and the network often courts these accounts with invites to be in the Bravo Clubhouse and other perks. Attacking Bush sends a signal that they're open to threats from Bravo stars, and that the network will do little to reprimand them.
Galli posted on Instagram that “the fact that Kelly went so far as to tag WWHL in her social media bullying backs up the idea that this is a woman who feels supported by the network through their silence.” She herself has been doxxed over her views around Bravo stars, with private information like her address, birth date, email address, and cell phone number shared online by angry fans.
The network does bear some responsibility. While they can't control what their talent says online or in person, they can choose to hold them accountable in some form or even make a statement condemning the behavior. The network has yet to publicly comment on Dodd's actions. “I don't think it's a great idea to promote the threat of possible violence against Bravo accounts,” Galli said. “If you work at any company on Earth, or potentially were talent on any other network, you would face repercussions. And that would have happened several months ago. It would have happened when she has used racist and race baiting language; it would have happened when she has repeatedly referenced incredibly dangerous disinformation about COVID. There are many steps along the way in which she crossed the line that would be a line too far for most employers.”
Based on her interactions with fans of the franchise, Dodd is acting like a person aware that her job may be in jeopardy. It's still too soon to tell though, since the current season of RHOC only just wrapped, and typically it’s months after the end of a season before the network announces a cast. However, Andy Cohen mentioning a "reBOOT" of the franchise on Twitter certainly raised eyebrows. Dodd didn’t responded to VICE's requests for comment. A Bravo rep declined to comment and noted that the network has made no casting decisions yet.
At this point, Bush is deciding what to do with her account and how to proceed. “It was really upsetting. And it was scary...It was just a really overwhelming feeling,” Bush said. “Some people were excited that I was involved in some sort of feud. But that's not why I started my account. I just started to give my opinion. I didn't start it to get involved in the drama.”
Alex Zaragoza is a Senior Staff Writer at VICE.