Earlier this week, we wrote about DJ Olivia Dope coming forward with accusations of sexual harassment in the workplace from her former boss, rapper turned media personality, Joe Budden. Budden broke his usual pattern and took accountability, apologizing for the moment and acknowledging its inappropriateness.
We thought that might be the end of it. Olivia said she didn’t plan to speak about it again in order to focus on her healing. And we know Budden did all that he was likely to do. But Bridget Kelly and Mandii B., Olivia’s former co-hosts on the podcast where the harassment took place, also had some things to say. More than expressing their support of Olivia, their comments on one of the latest episodes of See The Thing Is, seemed to be geared toward defending themselves against people who suggested that they were not advocates or allies for Olivia in those moments with Joe.
Check out a few highlights from their recent conversation below and then we’ll discuss.
Mandii B.: We’ve enjoyed having our friends here. And while we want a third, there’s PTSD because we felt as though, we could have we done differently. What did we miss? In all of my friendships, I do want to believe that anyone in my space can check me and that they can trust me. So in a space where I know Bridget probably more than anyone, I’ve always checked in to make sure this person has felt safe.
As women, we want to believe that we are saving graces and safe spaces for other women and that is something I know has been eating her up.
Bridget Kelly: I think the hardest part for me has been how do I effectively avoid slipping into the position of having to do damage control when number one it’s not my responsibility and number 2 grappling with the feelings of wanting to be responsible. And for those of you who don’t know what we’re talking about, our former co-host came out and released a statement regarding her reason for her departure from the Joe Budden network. And she cited that it was because of sexual harassment from our network head who participated in an episode with us and made her feel mortified was her word and widely uncomfortable. My immediate response this morning was, ‘Do I call her?’ Because when she left, the manner in which she left, it was very abrupt. There was no conversation prior to her leaving. I was not expecting it.
Mandii B: She left us in a text message.
Bridget Kelly: Also, it was on a day when we had a photo shoot so we were all waiting for her and she didn’t show up. She said she didn’t feel well. Then we got a text message
Mandii B: At 6:33
Bridget: Saying we are no longer going to be able to work together because its too toxic of an environment for her.
Mandii: I will say too she also did acknowledge, ‘I understand and I apologize because I know that this is going to put you guys in a tough space but I want to thank you guys and the crew. But the environment on her was taxing.’
Bridget: Mandii and I did not respond immediately because shock. Joe called us and said, ‘Olivia just quit the podcast…did you guys see any of this coming?’ I said, ‘No, everything has been fine.’
Bridget: In the episode where Olivia felt violated, it was an uncomfortable day. It was very uncomfortable for all of us. Mandii and I have known Joe for a much longer time. Joe and I have also done “Love and Hip Hop” so I know when performative Joe turns on. Cameras are on, the lights. Everything is amplified. The energy, whether it’s toxic or meant to be funny and it’s not funny. Whatever the energy is, it’s performative…We take what’s being thrown when these cameras and mics are on with a grain of salt.
And it’s not to excuse anyone feeling uncomfortable if they’re not familiar and you don’t have that rapport with him. We carry on with the episode, we’re all left with a little…
Mandii: We took a break.
Bridget: Throughout the break, every single person goes to her and asks her if she’s okay. Joe asks, ‘Are you okay because that was a bit much.’ I recall Joe saying, ‘I’m sorry if that was a lot. I’m sorry if I did too much.’ Not even a lack of acknowledgement of his behavior went on. Everyone was like the energy is a little weird but when we get back from break, we’ll fix it amongst ourselves. Every single person.
Mandii: Parks said whatever you want taken out, we can snip it out right now.
Bridget: No one at any point in time was encouraging her to be quiet. Mandii even said let’s take that out because you looked uncomfortable.
Mandii: Whatever y’all got edited out, it was—this is where I hate that people are like—I looked her in her face and said, ‘No Liv, you looked uncomfortable and how any other woman would listen back to that. Let’s take that out.’
Bridget: I want to personally apologize if in that space she wasn’t comfortable enough with us to pull us aside and say, ‘This sh*t wasn’t cool.’ Because in that moment, regardless of how we think we are creating that space, no matter how many attempts we might make to get her to open up or own what she’s saying, if she doesn’t feel comfortable with us, she’s not going to say it. Regardless of the attempts. I think the part that’s so disheartening for me is that upon the release of this video, I’m looking at all of my comments, my mentions and the attacks on my character and Mandii’s when we did start this series and this podcast with the idea to protect each other. We did make efforts to try to make Olivia feel safe with us.
Mandii: I guess we failed.
Bridget: And I’m apologizing if she felt like those effort were water hitting a wall because attempts were made and we fell short in that, then I do feel awful about that…Because I brought Olivia in, I do still feel responsible for that. How do I, even if it’s not my fault, how do I make someone comfortable in an environment when they’re not even comfortable with me.
Mandii: She’s been beating herself up over this.
You can listen to the full podcast below.
There is a lot to unpack here. The part that rubs me the wrong way in this entire conversation is fact that Bridget and Mandii seem to be more concerned with defending themselves, their actions and even their continued professional relationship with Joe rather than centering Olivia’s experience in this moment.
They shared that they had to address this issue. But if this is where they took the conversation, I can’t say it wouldn’t have been better if they had just remained silent and continued simply working for Budden, even in the midst of the allegations–and all the allegations that came before Olivia’s.
Who cares if Olivia quit through a text message or if she never felt comfortable with the two of you? The issue at hand is Joe Budden was sexually harassing her on camera, in a room full of witnesses and she left to protect herself. Full stop.
There really is nothing else to discuss. What Bridget and Mandii may or may not have done in the situation is secondary to Olivia advocating for herself.
Bridget and Mandii did speak about course correction and what they might think about doing in the future. That’s productive. Does protecting another woman mean addressing Joe specifically, in the moment, while the cameras are still rolling? I think the public has a right to have an opinion on what they possibly could have done to make this terrible situation a bit better.
Still, at the end of the day, the responsibility lies solely on Joe Budden and his heinous behavior. He knows it, Bridget and Mandii know it. And Olivia knows it too. Any additional discussion that don’t focus on Olivia’s healing or Joe’s accountability just might do more harm than good as they shift focus from the person solely responsible for this trauma.
I think part of the reason Bridget and Mandii may be so offended by the questions to their character is because they’ve chosen to not only work with Joe, they rationalized his behavior by saying it was “performative.” They tried to claim that this was not an excuse but it was. Whether Joe’s comments were performative or not, his decision to act them out represent a moral deficiency and poor business practice, if he has any intention of keeping this network going.
Bridget and Mandii’s decision to continue working with and for him, is there’s to make. Many of us have made questionably moral choices in terms of remaining employed. But it can’t be a decision that goes unquestioned or unchallenged. People will have opinions if you’re in the public eye.
Again, all of the heat belongs to Joe and I think he’s getting the brunt of it. But Bridget and Mandii need to understand that a few comments and mentions on social media don’t make them the real victims in this situation. Olivia is. And in the spirit of sisterhood and allowing her to heal, I don’t think rehashing how they thought they supported her is providing any value.
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