Top Chef’s oil spill money prompts b.s. from Bravo, Anthony Bourdain vs. Andy Cohen vs. David Simon

News that Top Chef received $200,000 from the oil spill fund the Deepwater Horizon disaster has prompted controversy and a debate of sorts between Bravo VP Andy Cohen, chef Anthony Bourdain, and TV auteur David Simon.

All of this was significant enough to prompt Bravo to respond last night, defending its actions by posting a statement from the city’s marketing office that says its money didn’t come from the oil spill fund:

“The New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation is giving $175,000 to invest in bringing Top Chef to New Orleans. Our investment came from our normal budget, which we planned for, not BP dollars. The BP dollars we have received are being used for our summer online advertising campaign, per our grant request for those funds.”

While that may be accurate, Bravo’s use of it as a defense is utter bullshit, though very clever. That’s because no one is talking about the $175,000 the city paid; the original newspaper report about the funding said it was “$200,000 from the Louisiana Office of Tourism, $175,000 from the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp” and noted that “The state’s Top Chef contribution will come from a recovery fund established by BP after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.”

So, again, the controversy has always been about the state’s $200,000 contribution, which Bravo’s blog post ignores. Earlier this week, Anthony Bourdain suggested Bravo give back the $200,000 and offered a charity that’d be worthy of the money. Bourdain added, “My point was not that taking $$ was ‘wrong’ but that given circumstances and perception, a give-back would be a nice gesture.”

Andy Cohen’s response/defense said the money is designated for tourism, and then referenced “Treme’s tax credits from NOLA.” Bourdain was a writer on Treme, and that comment earned the attention of David Simon, the creator of the HBO series Treme (and other shows, such as The Wire), who received an e.mail from Bourdain about it.

And that’s when David Simon crushed Andy Cohen. Simon responded in a blog post titled Why I don’t tweet. Example #47, that included this epic line:

“I can’t be entirely indifferent to the shitty-ass, reach-around snark of some fellow who rushes to throw under the bus people about whom he has no knowledge whatsoever — and does so to gain a dishonest point in a fucking tweet war.”

Simon wrote, “I really don’t care what ‘Top Chef’ or Bravo does or doesn’t do,” but pointed out that HBO gave money to “to underwrite a long-term campaign by Treme to raise money for a series of 501c3 charities in New Orleans” that eventually raised more than $500,000.” And he disputed Andy Cohen’s point that there was any parallel:

“Mr. Cohen was not content to argue the merits or flaws of Mr. Bourdain’s point, or, for that matter, the merits or flaws of taking the funds in the first place. Instead, Mr. Cohen rushes to drag the Treme production into his defense, citing, in apples-to-oranges fashion, the fact that we have availed ourselves of the same Louisiana tax incentives that are standardized to every film production in that state.

[...]

For Mr. Cohen to flippantly imply that because HBO failed somehow to refuse the same tax rates that Louisiana offers to every production, we are in the same boat as ‘Top Chef’ and its extended negotiations for a BP payout is just, well, horseshit. Snide works well and seems plausible in 140-character morsels. When laid out in detail, it’s something altogether different. Sorry, but if Mr. Cohen is any kind of mensch and thinks about it for a little longer than it takes to type the first thing on his mind, he’ll see that an apology is owed.”

Andy’s only reply so far: “congratulations. we all love NOLA & want to bring as much business, tourism & attention to the city,chefs & gulf seafood.”

Alas, he seems to have forgotten about the business and attention he wants to bring to Bravo.

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.