“Once they got sued and hired attorneys, we weren’t allowed to speak to each other,” the comedian explained of the defamation lawsuit brought by Jim Bellino.
Heather McDonald has opened up about the "horrible" defamation suit against her, saying it ruined her friendships with "Real Housewives of Orange County" vets Shannon Beador and Tamra Judge.
On Monday, a judge dismissed the case brought by Jim Bellino, who claimed Shannon and Tamra said false statements about him and his divorce from their former "RHOC" cast member Alexis Bellino on Heather’s podcast "Juicy Scoop" in June 2019.
But, according to McDonald, the damage had already been done, as Heather was not allowed to speak to her two reality star friends because of legal ramifications.
"Once they got sued and hired attorneys, we weren’t allowed to speak to each other," the comedian explained to TooFab. "That was the other heartbreaking part – I’ve been friends with Tamra for over 10 years, I went to her wedding, ya know. Shannon too, I adore Shannon, we were real friends."
"I have not talked to them in over a year because of this. That’s the part that’s really sad," she added.
The "nightmare" began in 2019 when Heather invited Shannon and Tamra to her podcast, which sees the host and guests dish on "the hottest topics of the day." A few days before the podcast, news broke that Jim had filed for divorce against Alexis Bellino and court papers stated he was asking for spousal support.
Heather thought the request was out of the ordinary because, while Jim and Alexis were on "RHOC", he appeared to dismiss the idea of his wife being employed and making her own money.
"There was always the story line that they were super Christian and she came from his rib," Heather said, explaining her viewpoint. "And she’s not to work at Channel 5 News in San Diego. So I thought it was interesting that he’s asking for spousal support when all we saw on the reality show was that he never wanted his wife to work, so what career does she currently have that she could pay the support."
"So I brought it up and asked the questions to my two guests and they gave the opinion and he didn’t like it when he heard it, I guess."
Jim sued Shannon and Tamra first, then filed a defamation suit against Heather, claiming she was at fault for publishing the interview. Shannon won her case, but Tamra’s is still pending.
"Obviously, this made me feel horrible even though I know I did nothing wrong," the podcast host said. "I felt terrible about the whole thing. Nor did they do anything wrong, but I felt terrible because I was providing the entertainment platform."
As Heather is also friends with other Housewives vets – including Jill Zarin, Dolores Catania and Carole Radziwell – she feared the lawsuit would make her a pariah to the Bravo ladies.
"Does everyone hate me because of this chain of events," she said she asked herself at one point.
Heather revealed she did feel elated, however, about her court win as it "protects the rights of podcasters to report the news whether it is a report about a world peace summit or celebrity gossip," according to a press release statement.
"I think what makes it so interesting that I won is that it’s a first of its kind," Heather divulged to TooFab. "It’s a landmark case that will now be used probably in law school cause it makes podcasting protected with first amendments rights like a newspaper, TV show or radio. So it’s the first case that they will reference forever."
But getting to the judge’s decision was a long and harrowing road for the former writer and producer of "Chelsea Lately."
"It had a chilling effect," she explained. "I wanted to crawl in a hole and quit. It was the worst thing in my life next to my parents dying. Horrible. ‘Cause you just second guess everything and you wake up in the middle of the night and you’re just freaking out. And, of course, it’s very, very expensive to fight this kind of thing."
Heather said she felt like she had PSTD after being served the court papers, as she was "very scared every time a doorbell would ring."
The actress believes the experience was akin to Ronan Farrow and "how many times he was threatened with defamation suits," for his work on "Catch & Kill."
While TooFab was told Jim had already appealed Monday’s decision, Heather said her lawyers are planning on filing papers to have the attorney fees reimbursed.
"Now having won this part, I’m like bring it on!" Heather shared.
TooFab has contacted Jim Bellino for comment; we have also reached out to Alexis Bellino.
Check out more about the lawsuit dismissal on the latest episode of "Juicy Scoop" podcast.
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