"I can't say that I regret it," the RHONJ star tells ET, though she confesses it is a tricky situation. On last week's premiere, Jackie invoked Teresa Giudice's daughter's name in an attempt to prove a point. After Teresa repeated rumors she heard about Jackie’s husband, Evan, cheating -- with no proof -- Jackie told her co-star, "I heard Gia snorts coke in the bathroom at parties. I mean, I heard it! I don't know where I heard it from… It’s the same thing!"
"There was absolutely no truth to that," Jackie clarifies over video chat. "It was definitely just an analogy. I was trying to make the point about … how words can hurt."
Jackie's words stung back, though, as viewers flocked to Gia's Instagram comments to make jokes and ask questions about alleged drug use. Last Friday, Gia posted a statement to Twitter, writing, "Saying it was an analogy is making it excusable, it’s not. My character is now being questioned. My name was used to make a point. No one should be used in that way, I am suffering the consequences for such an outlandish and untrue statement. While her marriage is happy & in tact [sic]."
Jackie says she hasn't been monitoring Gia or Teresa's social media accounts since the premiere, but does offer her sincerest apologies to the now 20-year-old for any pain the comment caused.
"She's a great girl and I would never want to hurt her reputation," Jackie offers. "I just want to make sure everyone understands that it was really just to get Teresa to understand -- at the very end of a long and frustrating conversation -- how I was feeling."
Teresa flipped out at the mention of Gia's name, storming out of her 20-minute sit-down with Jackie before the women could reach any resolution. As she walked out of Margaret Josephs' house (the "neutral territory" where the two women met to speak), Teresa repeatedly called Jackie the c-word, as Jackie told Teresa, "I win."
"I think she has this mentality that ... she is the most important person on reality TV and, like, nobody can fight back against her," Jackie says of being the sole cast member who routinely challenges the OG. "That's really not true."
"Everyone else on the cast gives her a pass for every single thing she does," she adds. "Whether it's because they're a family member or because she has been a friend since childhood or, you know, in [Jennifer Aydin's] case, she's just, like, obsessed with being Teresa's friend, but it really... it's hard to stand alone and be the only person."
Jackie says she wasn't even trying to start drama with Teresa, claiming she had no inkling the Standing Strong author wouldn't understand her use of an analogy. But hindsight is 20/20.
"Honest to God I really, I don't dumb myself down for conversations with people," Jackie explains. "It was so clear as day that it was an analogy … and if I really thought that she wouldn’t understand that it was an analogy, I would never have said it."
"I was angry as hell at that moment," she recalls. "If she had understood that it was just an analogy, we could have continued that conversation on the couch. But the fact that that went completely over her head and she heard the name of the family member and just lost her s**t all together? To me, that indicates that she thinks her family is much more important than mine, and it was just a disappointing conversation. It was a disappointing start to the season."
Teresa told ET her intentions were (somewhat) pure in bringing up the rumors about Evan, which Jackie has repeatedly denied. She said it was not a premeditated move, and she started talking about the gossip at Evan's birthday party so Jackie could shut it down.
"She came to the party without a gift, that's No. 1," Jackie scoffs. "She was not there to celebrate my husband. She was there to start trouble, so no, I don’t believe that it wasn't premeditated. She knew what she was doing."
"She didn't tell me," Jackie points out. "She told every single person at the party aside from me, so that's obviously nonsense."
Jackie says she was happy to see how her friends handled Teresa's mid-party gossip session, as cast member after cast member attempted to get Teresa to stop talking. At the time of her confrontation with Teresa, Jackie says she didn't know the group was fully on her side, which led her to take a week-long pause from the group.
"The day after that conversation, we were all supposed to leave for Lake George," Jackie explains. "There was just no way I was setting myself up for four days of just, like, torturous fighting, so there was no way that I was going to go on that trip. I mean, you couldn't pay me enough money to go on that trip."
"All I knew was ... that Margaret was there for me, but I didn't know the stand that the rest of the women would take and, frankly, at that point I said to myself, 'Well, if the rest of the ladies in this group are going to stand with Teresa on this, then I don't know that this is the place for me anymore,'" she adds. "And I also needed to talk to Evan and make sure that he wanted to be a part of this group anymore, you know? And the thing is, I absolutely love -- love! -- being a part of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, but it's not my entire life."
Jackie ultimately appears to have the viewers on her side after the premiere… save for The Real Housewives of New York City alum Dorinda Medley, who tweeted her support for Teresa, tweets which Jackie says she's paying no mind: "I'm not that worried about what prior cast members of other franchises think of me."
Still, the whole ordeal took a toll on Jackie's home life, which she pivoted her attention to during the time she took away from the group.
"I had to tell Evan and he was just beside himself," she says of finding out about Teresa's rumor repeating in the days following Evan's party. "He was embarrassed and enraged, and everything was just coming down on me -- and rightfully so. I mean, he was really, really mad."
Jackie says she and Evan entered a cycle of non-stop fighting in the early days of filming season 11, something their four kids -- Jonas and Adin, 12, and Hudson and Alexis, 10 -- had never seen before.
"My kids were upset," Jackie divulges. "My daughter, I remember, would cry every night asking if we're going to get divorced. And I'm like, of course we're not going to get divorced over it, but they are not used to us fighting. So, it was a really heavy, emotional week in my house."
While Jackie and Evan were united on their response to the rumors, they fought over "the fourth wall," the fact that this chatter would make its way to TV -- and the general public -- eventually. RHONJ started filming in late spring, leaving the Goldschneiders bracing for impact for months.
"I know this exists in 'TV land,' but it also impacts our real life, day to day," Jackie notes. "Millions of people see it, millions of people are reading about it on the internet and he was just beside himself. He was so embarrassed. At the end of the day, he does this show because he loves me, you know? I think most husbands do. And he loves the show -- he gets along great with all the husbands -- but it's really for me."
"He was just so upset and embarrassed and there was no one for him to yell at and be mad at except for me," she continues. "I was racked with guilt, because I did bring this into his life and now, he was getting slaughtered. I think that every time that he would get upset and start venting and get mad and angry, it was all coming down on me and I didn't know what to do with it. So, it was just fight after fight of, 'What do you want me to do? I told you I'll leave. Is that what you want?' It was just a lot of back and forth and indecisiveness and, you know, at the end of the day, I just had to keep making the point of, 'I love you more than I love this and I will leave if you want me to,' and it was just a really frustrating experience, because I felt so guilty and so heavy for it, but there was nothing I could do to fix it."
Jackie ultimately chose to return, and she's glad she did because it gave her control over her narrative. She promises there will be resolution for the viewers, too, as to where these rumors stemmed from after Teresa claimed to not remember.
"There is absolutely resolution on it, but not entirely because of Teresa," she teases. "I did realize that this is a point that I was giving her way too much power to either, you know, take this back or keep it going, and once we took that power away from her, we reached a resolution much faster. But you'll have to tune in and see it because it's a really interesting process for me to come back."
While she's not loving reliving the situation, Jackie admits that surviving this did bring her and Evan closer together after nearly 15 years of marriage.
"This threw us for a loop," she says. "We've never experienced something like this before, somebody really coming at you to tear your family apart, and we weathered it so well. I'm really proud of him because he put on his big-boy pants and he dealt with it."
"I can count on one hand how many fights we've had since we've gotten married," Jackie continues, "and I think that this just showed us that we can have a really life-altering situation, and a big, big fight and blowout, and come back from it unscathed."
Jackie says Evan's point of view on the matter won't be fully explored on the show ("I didn’t put the cameras back on him for a little bit," she notes), but he does return alongside his wife for some of the more lighthearted moments still to come. There are also more tough moments in season 11, including a tense episode of crying teased in the trailer, where Jackie shouts, "I don’t even understand what’s going on right now" followed by, "Stop yelling about me!"
"There were two really hard days with the cameras this season for me," she says. "You saw one of them last episode, and [then there's] that one where you see me crying. There were so many fights going on, and I got into one fight that will just shock everybody because it’s the last person you'd ever think that I would fight with -- and I didn't know why we were fighting! All I knew is we were yelling at each other and we were both so upset, and I felt like I had reached this point where everything was getting better and then all of a sudden things took, like, 10 steps backwards."
There is also plenty of drama to come for everyone else, with the pressures of COVID life creating problems for nearly every woman.
"Oof!" Jackie lets out. "You get a really deep look into the mechanics of everybody's relationships and it's really interesting, because it's things that you wouldn't-- I am very, very close with [Melissa Gorga] and I never saw cracks in her marriage, and you saw all those cracks this season. You get insight into everybody's home life that we've never really seen before."
"I'm really excited for people to see the way that this plays out," she adds of season 11 in general. "It's a lot of heavy stuff and we work through it -- it's not just fluff -- and I feel like that's really interesting. And I just love all the love and support and just, a big thank you to everyone who has sent me supportive messages this week. I love it."