The drama erupted at the end of last week, when Cohen quipped that he didn’t know who Griffin was, which led the comedian to fire back, alleging Cohen asked her to do cocaine before appearing on his talk show, Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen. (Cohen denied the accusation.)
Now, a source tells PEOPLE that Griffin didn’t always see eye-to-eye with Cohen during their time working together at Bravo.
“Over the years, she disliked him but they weren’t in any ‘feud,’ ” the source says. “I don’t think he had a problem with her. But she used to be the face of Bravo, and she realized he threatened that once he became more of a front-of-the-camera star.”
Here’s a look back at their history — and how it all unraveled.
A longrunning professional relationship
Griffin, 56, and Cohen, 49, worked together for several years. Cohen, who was the head of development for Bravo Media until 2013, oversaw Griffin’s numerous stand-up specials on the network from 2004-13, including The D List, Straight to Hell, She’ll Cut a Bitch, Tired Hooker and more.
Griffin’s first Bravo comedy special, The D List, was so popular that the network later decided to turn it into a reality show, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List, which ran for six seasons from 2005-10. All six seasons were nominated for Emmys, with seasons 2 and 3 winning outstanding reality program awards in 2007 and 2008.
“Kathy always felt like she was on the D-List, even at Bravo. Her show wasn’t given the support it needed, even when it won Emmys. She did like 18 comedy specials for Bravo and was never given recognition for that,” a second source close to the situation tells PEOPLE. “The thing is, Bravo loved Kathy. Had her host the A-List Awards. Put her in the Summer by Bravo promos. She was a real fan of the talent and had an authentic voice for the brand.”
Griffin’s Bravo talk show doesn’t take off
In April 2012, Bravo premiered Kathy, Griffin’s weekly, late-night talk show. It lasted two seasons before being canned in 2013.
The second source indicated Cohen’s own success with WWHL, which launched in 2009, affected Kathy.
“It never found the audience, and Bravo was all-in on Watch What What Happens Live at the time. The two shows didn’t make sense together,” the source explains. “Hers was taped once a week on Thursdays, he was airing five nights a week. There wasn’t room for both of them. Andy was the face of the network. He had better ratings. Even when [Bravo] moved her live at 11:30 following his show during season 2, she couldn’t retain the crowd. The show was uneven.”
“She felt tossed aside after Kathy was canned, and it brought up the bigger problems with the network,” the source adds. “I don’t want to say she was difficult to work with, but she was certainly assertive. … I respected that, but I doubt Andy did. She went on to do Fashion Police. Andy wasn’t really bothered by it all. He never thought they had drama.”
Cohen wades into the Fashion Police debate
In 2015, Cohen spoke out against Griffin’s decision to quit Fashion Police after just seven episodes in the wake of a controversial joke co-host Giuliana Rancic made about singer/actress Zendaya‘s hair.
“I think it was the pot calling the kettle black,” he said. “That means she’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to make fun of anyone, this show is about making fun of people’ — and the reason everybody loves Kathy Griffin is she makes fun of people constantly.”
“I mean, listen, I love Kathy Griffin and I love her humor,” he continued. “I just think if [the show] wasn’t working, say it wasn’t working. … It wasn’t working. But don’t make it about, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be body-shaming.’ ”
Cooper insisted he was on “team Griffin,” jokingly accusing Cohen of trying to “stir the pot.”
“You love to stir it up,” he said. “This is what a party at Andy Cohen’s house is like. He always invites one or two people who are going to get drunk and end up in a fight, yelling.”
“I love Kathy Griffin, too!” Cohen said. “I’m just saying, because I’ve seen every stand-up special Kathy’s ever done because they were all on Bravo, I think she’s hilarious when she makes fun of Renee Zellweger and Oprah [Winfrey] and all these people and my crossed eyes. Then you go on Fashion Police and say, ‘I don’t want to body-shame people’ — well, I don’t know…”
Cohen replaces Griffin at CNN
Earlier this month, CNN announced that Cohen would be replacing Griffin as Cooper’s co-host on the network’s New Year’s Eve Live. Griffin, who co-hosted the broadcast with Cooper for 10 years, was fired earlier this year after she sparked nationwide outrage for posing with a mask of President Donald Trump‘s bloody head in her hand.
“Andy is the life of the party wherever he goes, and what bigger party is there than New Year’s Eve? It is going to be a blast,” said Cooper in a statement.
“I’ve been friends with Anderson for 25 years,” Cohen added. “We’ve traveled the world together and performed in 30-plus cities with AC2 and it’s all led to this one huge night!”
According to PEOPLE’s source, any reference to the New Year’s Eve gig is a sore point for Griffin, who previously revealed that she ended her nearly two decade-long friendship with Cooper after he publicly condemned the Trump photo.
“I think she felt abandoned by Andy during the Fashion Police drama and the Trump drama. I understand why — he should have spoken up for her. And then to take her job on NYE? And pretend not to know her? It’s no wonder,” the second source says.
Still, “Andy isn’t a bad guy. He’s good to the staff and easy to work with,” the source explains. “Talent likes him when they’re on the show, but he doesn’t have time for fired people like former Housewives. He keeps people at a distance. He gets distracted easily, and Kathy just wasn’t his focus.”
Cohen pulls a Mariah Carey
On Friday, Cohen seemingly shaded Griffin by pretending not to know who she was when asked about replacing her on the New Year’s Eve broadcast.
“Who? I don’t know her,” Cohen repeatedly told TMZ, smiling. (The quip was a reference to Carey’s infamous remark about not knowing who Jennifer Lopez is.)
Griffin retaliated on Twitter, pointing out that the stars have known each other for years.
“Even when it’s on tape, there are doubters? He is NOT kidding w paps,” she said. “Was my boss for 10 years. Treated me like a dog. Deeply misogynistic.”
Cohen, however, insisted that the stunt was just a bad joke.
“It was a joke to deflect the question,” he tweeted. “It wasn’t anything deep.”
Griffin unleashes on Cohen
On Saturday, Griffin released a 17-minute long YouTube video titled Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story, targeting both Cohen and TMZ founder Harvey Levin, whom she accused of being complicit in quieting scandals surrounding Harvey Weinstein.
“People like Harvey Levin and Andy Cohen honestly just live to take women down,” she said.
In the video, Griffin alleged Cohen asked her if she wanted to do cocaine before appearances on WWHL.
“Both times I did the show, right before we went live, Andy Cohen privately asked me in an office if I wanted to do blow,” she claimed. “I’ve never had a drink in my life. You guys know I’m no prude, but I’m kind of like a straightedge.”
“I thought he was kidding the first time,” she continued. “I was hoping he was kidding. The second time I do the show, same thing. So once again, we’re alone in an office and he’s like, ‘Wanna do some coke?’ And I’m thinking, ‘He’s serious!’ Trust me, he’s going to say he’s kidding and everything — no. He was asking me to do cocaine with him, that made me very uncomfortable.”
Griffin also said that Cohen was a “miserable boss” while My Life on the D-List was airing on Bravo.
“The whole time I was working there, I didn’t know how Andy Cohen wanted to be me … I didn’t know Andy Cohen was on the red carpet, trying to be funny and asking questions on BravoTV.com,” she said. “I didn’t know when they ended The D List and I desperately wanted to do a talk show, Andy Cohen would be the first television executive in the history of television to give himself a talk show — which seems to get picked up every season.”
Cohen denied Griffin’s accusations on Twitter, declining to comment further to PEOPLE.
“I am completely stunned by this story,” he said. “It is 100% false and totally made up.”
“Have said many times it’s not my thing,” he added. “I am a pot guy. Listen to my Howard [Stern] interviews I am [very] specific.”
A third source told PEOPLE they had never seen drug use backstage at WWHL, adding that Cohen ” was shocked by her video. And disappointed. He may not have had a problem with her before, but I don’t think he cares much for her now.”
Cohen promises a bigger conversation
On Monday, Cohen said he had no idea the stunt would backfire the way it did, explaining on his SiriusXM radio show Andy Cohen Live that he meant it as a joke — and vowing to address it at length another time.
“We will have this conversation — you … me, and everyone who listens to Radio Andy, when the moment is right,” he said. “I’m going to reserve an hour, okay? And we’re going to talk about it. And I’m going to spill the tea all over myself. But I’m not having it today. We will have it. Because I owe it to everybody who’s listening. And myself. I’m a truth teller, okay?”
Of why he pretended not to know Griffin in the first place, Cohen said that in order to “avoid getting involved” with the TMZ paparazzo, he decided to “quote the great Mariah Carey, which is funny in my mind.”
“And stupid!” he said. “Something that is so innocuous and dumb, so it’s the classic ‘I don’t know her.’ ”
“Well, here is the deal,” Cohen continued. “Usually with TMZ, you’re walking and you say your thing and you get in your car. Well, my driver parked on the second level of the parking lot. So we’re standing there all that time waiting for the elevator, and that’s why it kept going on and on. And I didn’t really know how to pivot in the conversation. Like, ‘What, what, I don’t know!’ So I failed my Mariah impression.”
Cohen said he never thought “whatsoever” that the quip would “blow up.”
“So I didn’t land that ‘I don’t know her’ [joke],” he continued. “But can I ask you a question? If you were a comedian and someone said ‘I don’t know you’ and it was obvious, like, aren’t there much more important things? How offensive is that in the galaxy?”
- with reporting by ELIZABETH LEONARD