The Johns Hopkins University wants the public to know it has nothing to do with the “Real Housewives of Potomac,” a popular reality television show that chronicles the personal lives of several wealthy Maryland women, including one who teaches at Hopkins.
A disclaimer stating that the elite Baltimore-based research institution has “no involvement” with the show appeared in the final seconds of a recent episode that was explosive, even by the attention-grabbing reality television franchise’s standards.
“Johns Hopkins University has well documented Use of Name guidelines and often requires disclaimers,” said Jill Rosen, a spokesperson for the school.
The episode, which aired two weeks ago on Bravo, did not focus on Hopkins. Rather, it chronicled a trip the cast took to Florida.
During dinner at a chic Miami restaurant, cast member Mia Thornton, who lives in Potomac and owns a network of chiropractic offices, threw a lychee martini on cast member Wendy Osefo, who teaches in Hopkins’ school of education. An argument ensued and both women were restrained after trying to attack one another.
At one point during the argument, Osefo said, “I’m the only Black female who’s a professor at Johns Hopkins. I’m the youngest professor at Johns Hopkins.”
As Osefo left the restaurant, frustrated that several of her cast mates appeared to side with Thornton, who started the argument, she said she would “beat the fucking shit” out of Thornton. Many viewers also commented on social media about how Osefo had been treated unfairly by her cast mates, given the fact that Thornton instigated the fight.
Osefo did not respond to a request for comment on the disclaimer, but she did post this on Twitter shortly after the episode aired:
“Hey, y’all! These past few days have been crazy, but just wanted to say that I see you and I appreciate each and every one of you. I am forever grateful for the outpouring of love and support, Sending you all my deepest gratitude and biggest hug!”
Osefo is an assistant professor in the doctor of education program at the Johns Hopkins School of Education. Her research examines how race and class influence students’ learning, achievement and educational trajectories. She’s also a recipient of the Johns Hopkins Diversity Recognition Award and the Johns Hopkins University Outstanding Recent Graduate Award.
Robert Thompson, who directs the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, said disclaimers that seek to distance a company or institution from a reality television show are extremely rare, whereas disclaimers disclosing paid product placements are common.
He said he couldn’t recall another example of such a disclaimer running at the end of any other “Real Housewives” episode since the franchise launched in 2006. There are now 11 “Real Housewives” shows that chronicle the lives of wealthy women who live in and around major American cities and Dubai.
“This is Hopkins saying, ‘We don’t want to be associated with the likes of the ‘Real Housewives,’ ” Thompson said. “The disclaimer makes them sound old-fashioned and pretentious.”
It also raised questions whether Hopkins saw the episode before it aired publicly.
Rosen said the university wrote to Bravo in 2020 and requested that a disclaimer appear in every episode that references Osefo’s status as a Hopkins faculty member, in accordance with the school’s use of name policy.
That policy states: “The JHU Name and Mark are among JHU’s most valuable assets. The widely recognized JHU Name and Marks represent the high caliber of the JHU faculty, staff and students and the quality and breadth of their integrity and endeavors. Every use of the JHU Name and Marks conveys an association with JHU and potentially affects the institution’s reputation. Therefore, the activities with which the JHU Name and Marks are associated must be consistent with the JHU mission and values and with the appropriate standards of quality and excellence.”
Rosen stressed that Hopkins allows faculty members to engage in outside activities, like appearing on a reality television show, so long as they make clear that they do so in a personal capacity.
“Johns Hopkins has no knowledge of any content before it is aired by Bravo and was not given an opportunity to review the manner in which Bravo planned to show the disclaimer,” she added.
Rosen said, however, that a disclaimer has not been shown after every episode that mentions Osefo’s affiliation with the university.
When asked why the disclaimer was shown at the end of this “Real Housewives of Potomac” episode, Sandra Lajoie, a spokesperson for NBC Universal, Bravo’s parent company, said, “Thanks for reaching out, but we don’t have anything further we can say.”