"We just felt like the show needed some new air," said Andy Cohen of The Real Housewives of Orange County, which premieres its 15th season next week

By Benjamin VanHoose
September 30, 2020 10:51 AM
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Andy Cohen is letting Tamra Judge know that her Real Housewives of Orange County exit wasn't about age.

In Friday's episode of the Brandi Glanville Unfiltered podcast, the Watch What Happens Live host, 52, denied the claim that he's ageist, assuring that longtime RHOC stars Judge and Vicki Gunvalson's exits from the show had nothing to do with their age.

“I felt like they told their entire stories, and they both said that you were an ageist,” Glanville, 47, told Cohen during the podcast episode. “... They said that you were ageist, that you were going against them because they got too old.”

Judge, who joined RHOC in season 3 back in 2007, announced in January that she would not be returning to the reality series' 15th season, which is set to debut Wednesday, Oct. 7. She suggested to the Behind the Velvet Rope podcast in June that she believed Bravo was looking to replace cast members with "younger Housewives."

Andy Cohen and Tamra Judge
| Credit: Eric McCandless via Getty Images; Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

“If you look at the women on our shows, there are a lot of women who are really thriving in their 50s and late-50s. Yeah, no. I don’t care for that [comment],” said Cohen.

“... We just felt like the show needed some new air. We just needed to kind of air it out and see where it went," he added. "... Even though these two women — who are so identifiable with it and will always be and I hope will someday be back in some capacity — the show is still the show. And I was very happy about that. It needed to go in new directions.”

On Twitter, Judge, 53, appeared to deny that she said ageism played a part in her exit and replacement. "Setting the record straight, Brandi is lying ....again! Andy knows it! The link to the story is in my bio & story @ Liar," she wrote on Tuesday.

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Speaking exclusively to PEOPLE in January about her RHOC departure, Judge said starring on the show was a ″wild ride."

“It’s been a wild ride, and after all these years, I’m looking forward to life away from the cameras,” she said at the time. “I was offered a chance to come back to the show in a limited role, but would prefer to walk away on my own terms.”

“I want to thank all the fans who have offered me their support over the years,” she added. “It’s meant a lot.”

Gunvalson, 58, announced her own exit from the show just before Judge. She had been with the series since its debut in 2006, but was demoted last season to a Friend of the Housewives role.

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“I will always be the OG of the OC, but it’s time to say goodbye to The Real Housewives of Orange County,” the insurance saleswoman wrote on Instagram at the time, before referencing her famous party catchphrase. “It’s been an incredible ride for 14 years and I want to thank all of you for your support, for your love and for ‘whooping it up!’”

Gunvalson concluded the post by thanking her fans, as well as RHOC's network and production company: “I love all my fans, and I want to thank Bravo and Evolution for this incredible experience, which my family and I have will never forget.”

At the time, Gunvalson also commented on Judge’s Instagram announcement, writing: “We have shared so many great and not so great times together and it has been the ride of our lives. Thelma and Louise …. now where do you want to go?!”

The upcoming 15th season of RHOC stars Kelly Dodd, 45; Shannon Beador, 56; Braunwyn Windham-Burke, 42; Emily Simpson, 44; Gina Kirschenheiter, 36; and newcomer Elizabeth Lyn Vargas.