Scandals That Hit VH1 Hard

VH1 might have started out as an alternative to MTV, airing music videos that would appeal to a slightly older audience rather than the rock groups featured on MTV. But it quickly became home to some of the most notorious reality TV shows of the early 2000s, which were known for their unhinged chaos and dramatic clashes. 

It brought us stars like Tiffany Pollard or "New York," who first appeared on screen in the dating game show "Flavor of Love" competing for the heart of Public Enemy's Flavor Flav." It gave us iconic moments like the introduction of the much-loved Big Ang on their Mafia-inspired reality series "Mob Wives." And it provided the comedian Mo'Nique with the problematic but entertaining vehicle "Charm School."

But VH1's shows have also had their darker side and the network has occasionally found itself in hot water over controversial and sometimes fatal scandals. Keep reading to find out some of the most disreputable moments in VH1's history.

A dating show contestant murdered his wife

Out of all the forgotten VH1 dating shows from the 2000s, "Megan Wants A Millionaire" definitely had the darkest conclusion. The show, which featured a former "Rock of Love" contestant looking for romance, was taken off the air after the news broke that one of the contestants had murdered his wife and killed himself.

Real estate developer Ryan Jenkins was also a contestant on VH1's "I Love Money 3" and both shows had wrapped by the time he killed model Jasmine Fiore. Megan Hauserman, the eligible bachelorette on "Megan Wants A Millionaire" had actually wanted to pick Jenkins initially but producers told her he came across as very different and far less charming in his solo interviews. "I figured that I would just call him and explain to him that, you know, it's a TV show," she later told Entertainment Weekly. "... And then I would just meet up with him afterwards." After he was kicked off the show, however, Jenkins had met Fiore in Vegas and talked her into a spontaneous wedding. Their whirlwind romance quickly soured, thanks to his jealousy, and the model's body was found in a gory scene five months later.

Critics blamed VH1 for not catching that Jenkins had a criminal record already: as TMZ reported, he had already assaulted a girlfriend in Canada. And the fallout led to a decline in the popularity of the network's dating shows, although they continued to produce countless reality TV programs.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

An NFL player's show was canceled over his domestic abuse

When VH1 decided to base a reality show on football player Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson and his wife Evelyn Lozada, they didn't expect that "Ev and Ocho" would have to be shut down before it ever aired. Eight episodes had already been filmed when Johnson was arrested and charged with domestic battery against Lozada in 2012, provoking outrage from football fans and reality TV watchers across the country. During a heated argument over whether he was cheating, the NFL player reportedly head-butted her with enough force that she needed six stitches, as Lozada told ABC News. The incident led her to file for divorce after only a few weeks of marriage.

"Due to the unfortunate events over the weekend and the seriousness of the allegations, VH1 is pulling the series 'Ev and Ocho' from its schedule and has no current plans of airing it," the network stated at the time, per Variety. Johnson had found fame as one of the NFL's best-known wide receivers after ten seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. He had also just been signed by the Miami Dolphins, who decided to cut him from the team days after the arrest. Lozada was well-known in her own right as a cast member on the VH1 series "Basketball Wives" for nine seasons and later launched her own campaign in 2017 to raise money for domestic abuse survivors inspired by her own experience, which was called "Turn Hurt Into Joy."

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Celebrity Rehab pushed stars to relapse

"Celebrity Rehab" became one of VH1's most controversial reality shows after former teen idol Leif Garrett claimed that producers pushed him to relapse for the sake of television.

"I didn't want to have a camera stuck in my face while I was trying to kick," the former pop star and actor told the Los Angeles Times, revealing that he was initially unsure about going on the exploitative show. "But I finally came to the realization: It's everybody's business, because it's been in the papers." Garrett decided to try and get sober by himself before filming started and he actually managed to stay clean for a number of days. Producers reportedly weren't pleased with this development, however. "They asked to get some footage of me using, and I said, 'I haven't been using,'" he explained. "They said, 'We really have to get footage of you using.' Anyway, I was easily talked into showing them."

VH1 denied the claims but other stars like actor Jeff Conaway still insisted that they were told to play up their addictions for the camera. And multiple celebs who had appeared on the show went on to tragically early deaths like Rodney King and country singer Mindy McCready, which ultimately led to the show's cancellation. "I'm tired of taking all the heat. It's just ridiculous," the show's rehabilitation expert, Dr. Drew Pinsky announced in a 2013 radio interview, per Today, denying any responsibility for these celebrity deaths.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

RuPaul's Drag Race had to disqualify a queen over sexual harassment allegations

"RuPaul's Drag Race" is an international phenomenon that has introduced the world to countless talented and charismatic drag queens. But when it was airing on VH1, the show had to distance itself from one of the Season 12 queens after a bizarre catfishing sexual harassment scandal.

After the show began airing episodes with Sherry Pie, whose real name is Joey Gugliemelli, an actor called Ben Shimkus wrote a Facebook post alleging that Gugliemelli had pretended to be a casting agent named Allison Mossey to trick him into sending sexually suggestive videos of himself. "I hope Allison Mossey and other tactics of sexualizing people in our community without their consent is put to an end," Shimkus added, writing that it had been a crushing blow to his mental health and that other men had shared similar experiences with him. Although Gugliemelli publicly apologized for the trauma that he caused, Shimkus pointed out to Instinct that he had said the same apology five years ago and "then victimized at least 20 people to my knowledge."

"Out of respect for the hard work of the other queens, VH1 will air the season as planned," the show's Twitter announced at the time, adding that Gugliemelli wouldn't be part of the grand finale. Sherry Pie was disqualified from winning "Drag Race" and most footage of the drag queen was subsequently edited out of Season 12 by VH1.

Stephanie Moseley was killed by her husband

One of the most serious tragedies to ever hit a VH1 production took place in 2014 when the rapper Earl Hayes murdered his wife, "Hit the Floor" star Stephanie Moseley, and then killed himself. The LAPD told Entertainment Tonight that neighbors had heard screams and gunshots during the early morning and police were called out, only to find the celebrity couple dead on their bathroom floor. Although the pair had been estranged the year before, they had been living together and trying to reconcile at the time of Moseley's murder. The actor and dancer was mourned by celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Rihanna, who had performed with Moseley before.

"We are incredibly saddened to hear the news of the passing of Stephanie Moseley," the network stated, per Deadline. "VH1 and the entire 'Hit The Floor' family send our thoughts and condolences to her family and friends at this difficult time." The cast and crew struggled to recover from the loss but decided to name a character after her on the show in the next season. "Stephanie was such a big part of our show and she inspired a lot of us. We want her legacy to live on in the physical realm," co-star Taylour Paige told the New York Post, reflecting on the impact Moseley had on her personally. "She pushed me to live a life where I am conscious of who is in it, and how I am being treated."

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

'Music Behind Bars' was accused of glorifying murderers

While "Music Behind Bars" might have had a noble goal in documenting music programs inside prisons across America, VH1 was accused of glorifying some of the more serious offenders. The show about prison life received significant backlash after a woman called Mary Orlando pointed out that her daughter's killer was now technically a reality TV star, as The New York Post reported. "I figured he should be behind bars, not dancing in a rock band," Orlando told Katie Couric at the time, revealing that Christopher Bissey, who appeared in the documentary series as the guitarist of "Dark Mischief," had murdered her daughter in 1995.

Conservative commentator Bill O'Reilly (who later faced his own legal troubles over sexual harassment claims) went on the warpath against VH1 on his Fox show and interviewed politicians like Pennsylvania's Gov. Mark Schweiker, who announced that he would be cutting the music program. "We don't want it to happen again, and today we're making sure that in all of our prisons, no more music programs or opportunities of this kind again will be afforded to murderers," Schweiker stated.

VH1 defended its show in a statement to the press, acknowledging that some of the inmates chosen to be on screen were in prison for serious charges but adding: "We think that once the first episode of the series has aired, people will see for themselves that it in no way glorifies prison life or these programs."

'Dating Naked' was hit by lawsuits

"Dating Naked" might sound like a show designed to attract controversy: the bizarre dating show started airing in 2014 with the premise that its contestants would compete for a suitor's heart while fully naked in beautiful beach locations. But VH1 probably didn't expect to face a $10 million dollar lawsuit when a contestant realized that her body had been insufficiently blurred.

"On top of the money, Nizewitz wants a huge apology from the network," Jessie Nizewitz's lawyer told Entertainment Weekly, adding that VH1 had affected her personal life since a new relationship had ended abruptly. Niewitz clarified that she wouldn't mind being seen in a bikini on TV and had been assured that the blurring would cover the parts usually hidden in a two-piece bathing suit. "Obviously, I did not expect the world to see my private parts, this is not what I anticipated or what any other contestants on the show anticipated," she added.

Nizewitz also claimed that the moment had been shared online widely and that she had been mocked by strangers. "My grandma saw it. I saw her this week and she didn't have much to say to me. She's probably mad," Nizewitz explained to the New York Post. "My parents are just annoyed." Although the $10 million lawsuit was later dismissed, as a judge ruled that she had signed a contract that prevented her from suing, the show's reputation took a hit.

Tiny and T.I. had their show canceled over wave of allegations

Atlanta rapper T.I. started appearing on the VH1 reality series "T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle" in 2011 alongside his wife, the singer-songwriter Tameka "Tiny" Cottle-Harris. The inside look at their family life was popular enough to run for six seasons but their follow-up, "T.I. & Tiny: Friends & Family Hustle," was unceremoniously yanked off the air in 2021 following a wave of allegations.

The first public allegation was made by a former friend of their family, Sabrina Peterson, who insisted that T.I. had threatened her with a gun in 2009. Over 30 women subsequently came forward to accuse the famous couple of sexual abuse, drugging them against their will, and false imprisonment. "For my clients who have survived terroristic threats and sexual assault and abuse and drugging, it never truly ends," one New York lawyer representing the accusers told NBC News. "Given the serious nature of the allegations, we have decided to suspend production in order to gather more information," a representative for VH1 and MTV stated.

T.I. and Tiny have vehemently denied all the charges against them and the "Live Your Life" rapper denounced VH1 in 2022 for ceasing production on their reality shows. "13 years, no loyalty," he wrote on Instagram, as XXL reported, accusing producers of hypocrisy and claiming that they were actually hurting the women in his family. "No Integrity. Just jumped to conclusions. False accusations. No apology. No accountability. No closure."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

A Black Ink Crew star sued VH1

"Black Ink Crew," which follows the employees of a Harlem tattoo shop, was successful enough that it spawned spin-off series in Chicago and Compton. But its reputation was hit in 2014 when Alexandra Estevez came forward with a $1,000,000 lawsuit against producers. Estevez, who had been a receptionist on "Black Ink Crew," claimed that she and a friend had been given a date rape drug while filming the 2012 episode "Mixxxy Madness." Estevez was shown hitting on her boss at a party, which she reportedly didn't remember. She insisted that producers used roofies and dubious editing to deliberately make female employees look promiscuous, so she quit in 2013.

"Ain't no one give her s**t. She was drunk off Henny," the shop's owner Ceasar Emanuel bluntly told TMZ in response, claiming that the footage spoke for itself. "You can see from her behavior no one gave her any drugs." He also made a crude comment about her claims that they tried to make her look sexually forward: "You don't have to give a slut drugs to do what she naturally does." Estevez then filed an amendment, asking for more money and alleging that her co-star Richard Duncan was the one who actually provided what she thought was Red Bull. "Shortly after drinking from the cup Mr. Duncan poured into, I blanked out," she added, per Radar. Although she ultimately lost the lawsuit over lack of evidence, it still didn't look great for the show.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Another reality star was fired for animal abuse

"Black Ink Crew" found itself in more hot water when one of its stars was caught on a Ring home security camera abusing two dogs. The clip of Ceaser Emanuel beating his dogs with a chair went viral in June 2022 and sparked a furious reaction from fans of the show, who slammed him for being sadistic. Thanks to all the backlash, VH1 ended up firing him from the reality show. "We have made the decision to cut ties with Ceaser Emanuel," the network wrote on Twitter. "Since next season was close to finishing production, this decision will not impact the upcoming season."

His lawyer insisted that speculation over whether Emanuel was involved in an ongoing investigation was false, telling TMZ: "There is no police involvement. The video is old. It was shot at his residence in Atlanta during COVID." But animal rights organization PETA still demanded formal charges, stating that Emanuel was a danger to animals and should never be able to own a pet again.

Ceaser also insisted that he was just trying to stop his dogs from fighting each other and that the clip simply looked bad out of context. "But it's a moment in time I wish I could take back," he told TMZ. The tattooist later claimed that his ex Suzette leaked the footage as revenge, but she denied that it was her and accused him of physical abuse in an interview with The Shade Room.

A 'Love & Hip Hop' star was fired for assaulting his girlfriend

The reality show "Love & Hip Hop" might be known for its fights and dramatic showdowns, but producers weren't going to let one of its stars get away with physically assaulting his girlfriend n 2014.

Rapper and TV personality Yung Berg was arrested only a short few hours after taping a reunion for the show "Love & Hip Hop Hollywood." According to TMZ, he had left the filming and tried to embark on a night out, but was enraged when his card got declined and started fighting with his girlfriend, the actor Masika Tucker. She later described him seizing her by the neck, pushing her to the ground, and punching her in the face, as ABC News reported, which meant that police charged him with "criminal obstruction of breathing."

VH1 responded quickly by ending their contract with the rapper and releasing a public statement. "Based on the severity of the allegations against Yung Berg, VH1 is terminating its relationship with him in connection with Love & Hip Hop Hollywood, effective immediately," the network posted on its website. Yung Berg went on to have more brushes with the law over drugs possession and failing to show up for court dates.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Another 'Love & Hip Hop' star got convicted for COVID fraud

"Love & Hip Hop" attracted even more scandal when one of its stars from the Atlanta spin-off, "Mo" Fayne, received a prison sentence of 17 years for using pandemic funds to cover up his shady financial dealings.

The rapper received over $2 million from COVID-19 relief funds, which he claimed was necessary to keep his trucking business "Flame Trucking" going and pay his 107 employees. Instead, he leased a Rolls-Royce, bought himself a Rolex, paid off his own debts, and kept a long-term fraudulent investment scheme going. And when the feds started to investigate his loans, the whole scam fell apart. Fayne was charged in 2020 and he quietly settled his divorce from his fellow wife, fellow "Love & Hip Hop" star Karlie Redd, a month later.

"Fayne planned to use the PPP program as a cover for his long-running Ponzi scheme," the U.S. Attorney's Office explained in a statement, accusing him of being greedy and fraudulent. They also accused him of running the multi-state scheme from 2013. "The funds the program supplies serve as a lifeline to many businesses desperately trying to stay afloat during the pandemic, and unfortunately his fraud helped deplete those precious dollars," the statement continued.