'RHONJ's Jackie Goldschneider Defends Teresa Giudice Friendship Amid Margaret Josephs Falling Out (Exclusive)

'The Real Housewives of New Jersey's Jackie Goldschneider hit back at 'conspiracy theories' surrounding her on season 14 of the show.

Jackie Goldschneider came into season 14 of The Real Housewives of New Jersey with a self-directed mission: leave the past in the past.

"I just came into the season being really open to be friends with everyone," the longtime RHONJ star tells ET over video chat. "I mistakenly thought that we could all come back together and be a cohesive group."

However, for the rest of the ensemble -- or at least a lot of it -- lines were drawn; Teresa Giudice and Melissa Gorga made it clear they wanted nothing to do with the other after the events of season 13, which ended with Melissa under the belief that Teresa and Jennifer Aydin set up newcomer Danielle Cabral to spread a cheating rumor about her on the show in an attempt to take down her and her husband, Teresa's brother, Joe Gorga. Things got worse at the reunion, where Melissa, Margaret Josephs and Rachel Fuda confronted Teresa's husband, Louie Ruelas, over his since-walked-back claim that a private investigator dug up dirt on all of them for Louie. 

Stepping into season 14, Margaret declared she was avoiding Louie and Teresa at all costs; it was assumed that Jackie would take her lead, but Jackie says she had an "aha moment" of sorts about their friendship just as cameras went up.

"Before the season started is when our breakdown began," she shares. "There were issues before the season even started, and so I think that things just escalated on camera, and I think that Margaret expects and demands a lot of loyalty and that translated into not being able to move forward with other parts of my life."

"I don't think friendships should be that difficult," Jackie says. "I think they should be easy, because life is hard and I think friendship should be easy, and it was not an easy friendship anymore; and so, I started taking some distance from it, and I think that Margaret found that very, very insulting and disloyal, and I think things just escalated from there."

The cracks started showing at Jenn Fessler's birthday party, featured in the season 14 premiere, during which Margaret confronted Jackie over not receiving an advanced copy of her memoir, The Weight of Beautiful, which other cast members had received by that point.

Jackie Goldschneider's memoir, 'The Weight of Beautiful,' is available wherever books are sold. - Simon & Schuster

"Margaret absolutely, 1,000 percent got an advanced copy of my book," Jackie clarifies. "She just did not get the soft-cover, unfinished press copy that went to people who asked me to do press with them. Melissa asked me to do press, she asked me to do her podcast. So, my publisher -- who had those books -- sent her one, so she could be prepared for the podcast."

"Jenn Fessler is like my sister-- well, not my actual sister, 'cause I don't speak to her -- but she is like, we could be sisters," she continues. "We have a very close bond, and she read chapters before my publisher. I would print them out of my computer ... and send them to Jenn Fessler, and those are the only two people on our cast that had the book before Margaret. I sent the entire cast an advanced copy of the book before it came out. Jenn Fessler's birthday party was literally two months before my book came out. There's no reason why Margaret needed the book at that point."

Margaret brought back up her annoyance over the book a few weeks later, when the cast gathered for a charity softball game, while also confronting Jackie over not reaching out to Margaret on the one-year anniversary of her ex-husband's death.

"For me to be held to a standard where, on the one-year anniversary of her ex-husband's death, who she divorced over a decade ago and has since been remarried, that's a really high standard to hold somebody to," Jackie says, noting she was more than there for Margaret when her ex, Jan Josephs, died.

"I was on the phone with her all the time," she shares. "I cried more at the funeral than anybody. I was at her house for the shiva. I was a very good friend to her. I didn't remember the one-year anniversary, and I don't even feel that bad about that. Margaret, over the course of that year, I am sure that she was hurt. I am not taking that away from her. I'm sure that she was sad, and she experienced a lot of emotions around it, but when we would talk, it was not about her grieving process over Jan, Like, Jan would never even come up."

Margaret Josephs and Jackie Goldschneider appeared together on a 2023 episode of 'Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen.' - Charles Sykes / Bravo via Getty Images

For Jackie, she was trapped in a game she couldn't win, because the rules weren't fair, and suspects Margaret went after her largely for being open to reconciling with Teresa. Jackie says she and Teresa wiped their slate clean at Jenn's birthday party, but their conversation didn't make air. She credits that chat with opening the door for her to attend Jennifer's dog-themed party, which struck some of the cast as odd, given that Jackie has never been close (or really even gotten along with) Jennifer and Teresa.

"I do think that [Margaret] was really pissed that I went to the dog party, and that I was getting friendly with Jenn and Teresa," she says. For what it's worth, Margaret turned down Jennifer's invite to attend the event.

"I think Margaret was really upset that I was moving forward with a friendship with somebody that she disliked so much," she adds, "and I think the other part of it was that she really expected to come first in all aspects of my life, and how dare I send somebody else the book before she gets it?"

Jackie doesn't shy away from saying she once shared "a very beautiful, special friendship" with Margaret -- and they could get there again -- but right now, more is expected of Jackie than Margaret gives back. 

"I never expected it to turn into what it turned into," she admits, sharing her confusion over Melissa pulling away from Jackie as she pulled away from Margaret.

"I never had a fight with Melissa," she declares. "We had some words, but Melissa and I were fine. I don't really understand what happened there. All of a sudden, one day I wake up and we're in a fight. So I think that was another loyalty demand on Margaret's part, and I think there was a lot of games going on this season with, choose a side. Pick a team, you know? One's gonna stay, one's gonna go, and I think it turned into, like, a game show, like a competition show instead of a friend group."

Both Margaret and Melissa have questioned Jackie's newfound friendship with Teresa, speculating it was a calculated move to secure screen time on the show after becoming a "friend of" last season, when she had been a full-time cast member the four previous seasons.

"First of all, I know my place on this show: I am a friend," Jackie hits back. "I am so happy being a friend. [My husband] Evan Goldschneider is happy with me being a friend. My four teenagers are happy with me being a friend. It works, OK? I'm not fighting for screen time. I'm not engaging in ridiculous antics, and anybody who watches the show can see I did not start that fight [at the softball game] with Margaret. I didn't do anything outrageous. I was just responding to her."

Jackie teases that her feud with Margaret picks up in the coming weeks, with one instance making her feel as if "I can never be friends with this woman again." It might be the moment previewed in the season trailer, with Jackie storming away from Margaret and finding comfort in Teresa and Jennifer, who offer to show her what "true friends" are like.  

"I know that there might have been some strategy on Teresa's part -- I haven't seen the episodes, so I don't know if this behind the scenes she's saying, 'Oh, Jackie hates Margaret now, let me get in there...' you know?" she muses. "I don't know if that happened, but even if that happened, it has been a very long time since filming, and Teresa and I are super close. Our friendship continues to grow. We celebrate birthdays together. We talk on the phone multiple times a week. We don't even talk about the show. ... We really like each other. So, no matter what it started as, what it turned into was a really nice friendship."

For years, Jackie seemed to be at an impasse with Teresa, especially after the events of season 11, during which Teresa spread (or simply repeated, if you ask her) an untrue rumor about Evan cheating on Jackie. It led to back and forth digs between the women, and an explosive, expletive-laden confrontation at Margaret's house after Jackie used an analogy invoking Teresa's daughter's name to prove how damaging repeating unfounded information can be to someone. 

Jackie Goldschneider and Teresa Giudice faced off on season 11 of Bravo's 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey.' - Bravo

"Yes, there was a ton of hurt, and I will not sugarcoat that," Jackie acknowledges. "I mean, I was devastated. [But now], I have moved past it. I just don't know what to say. I did a lot of intensive therapy to get over my eating disorder. Like, twice a week, intensive, and a lot of that had to do with letting go of the past. I don't want this to sound like therapy mumbo jumbo, but I had to let go of a lot of my past, because it was holding me back and keeping me sick -- and part of the stuff that I let go of was this whole cheating rumor. It impacted me then. It has not impacted my life since."

Teresa's claimed that Margaret was the original source of the rumor and that Jackie has now seen that; Jackie won't go so far as to say that, though, saying there's no firm proof. 

"Before I became friends with Teresa, when I saw that we were starting, I took Evan aside, and I said, 'Listen, how do you feel about me being friends with Teresa?'" she recalls. "And he was like, 'Fine. I'm over it.' If Evan had said, 'I can't stand her. Stay away.' I would have respected that, but he's over it. I'm over it. I don't know what else to say. Like, there was nothing there that I still felt like anger or pain in my heart. I let go of a lot of toxicity. I don't want that in my life anymore and I'm so glad that I did, and I'm not apologizing for it."

Jackie also points to the personal growth both she and Teresa have had individually since that season.

"I think she was bitter about her life, and rightly so," Jackie says of Teresa in 2020. "She had her husband [Joe Giudice] being deported. Her kids had to watch that. She was single. She was lonely. She was sad. There were money issues, and I think that she was in a bad place -- and I was still very sick [with anorexia], and I was very vulnerable, and I couldn't control my emotions."

"It was just a devastating fight for both of us, and I think that we both really grew up and became stronger women since then," she adds. "A friendship back then would not have worked for us. We were two very, very different people, and now it works."

Jackie thinks Margaret is, once again, holding her to a different standard, shining a light on what she sees as hypocrisy within the group.

"Everyone on this cast has fought," she says. "No one else is getting s**t for making up with each other, except for me and Teresa I mean, Danielle spread a cheating rumor about Melissa last year. They're thick as thieves right now. Nobody's giving them any stress about it, so I don't know why I'm held to a different standard."

Just ahead of RHONJ's season premiere, a fan account started sharing "receipts" online, posting alleged communication between themselves, Jennifer and Teresa, which appear to show the women asking the account to post negative information about some of the cast (namely Margaret, Melissa, Rachel and their spouses) in order to bring up the intel on the show. Teresa's denied taking part in the supposed plot, while Jennifer's yet to speak out on the allegations; meanwhile, Margaret and Melissa have both slammed the behavior as "disgusting." Jackie says, even if the claims are true, it doesn't change how she feels about Teresa or Jennifer.

"It's stuff that took place before I was friends with them," she explains. "I don't know what they did. I don't know what proof there is, so I'm kinda gonna stay out of all of it. Stay out of the judgment zone, too."

"I am so thrilled to say that I have no part in any single bit of anything going on on social media right now," she says. "I'm not saying that people didn't do bad things, certainly there's, you know, we all know that right now, but I think these accounts also are looking for their 15 minutes, too, and just saying whatever they can. I think a lot of cast members have engaged in not-so-great social media practices, and I'm staying out of all of it." 

As for where the cast goes from here, Jackie's not sure.

The cast of 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey' was all smiles together in season 13. - Eugene Gologursky / Bravo

"I think there's no coming back for Melissa and Teresa [having a friendship], that's clear," she surmises. "I don't even hope that they make up, because I think it's just a disaster waiting to happen."

"I don't necessarily think that this entire group goes anywhere," she continues. "I think that some people just shouldn't be a part of the group anymore, and I'm not gonna name it any names -- that's not my decision to make -- but I don't think that this group can be together anymore, and I think we saw what happens when we try. So, I think that the people who played the most games and said, 'You can't film with this one...' and, 'You can't film with that one...' I think that's a problem. We can't have a group like that, where people are told they can't film with other people. So I think if you take a few of them, you can build strong friendships among them. Watch reconciliations, watch resolution -- which is what we all want -- and you can build a group from there, but this entire group going forward I don't think there's a path forward."

The season premiere hinted at as much, with a flash-forward to a finale showdown at Rails Steakhouse, which was left in shambles when the cast left, glass broken on the floor. Jackie says Danielle is most to blame for the "chaos" that ensued at that table.

"Everybody really took part in it," she clarifies, "but I would say chaos-wise? Danielle [is most responsible]."

At the end of the day, Jackie wishes there was more levity to come in what viewers are about to watch.

"Unfortunately, it doesn't come to mind that many light, happy times, not this season," she laments. "I mean, there were times I laughed, but usually I was laughing at someone else fighting, you know?"

Jackie Goldschneider's official cast portrait for 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey.' - Andrew Eccles/Bravo

She is finding some good in watching back the season, though, getting to see herself on screen at the happiest and healthiest she's ever been since committing to her ED recovery.

"I'm really proud of myself," she declares. "I'm proud of this book. I'm so happy that the book is being shown on the show. I mean, my book sales have spiked after every episode ... which is the greatest thing in the world to me. This book is my greatest professional achievement, and I know that certain people have said that nobody does anything alone. I wrote this book alone. I got my book deal by myself. I took the traditional route. I wrote every word of it myself, so I'm really, really proud of it."

"It's great watching myself back," she reiterates. "[But] it's hard watching myself grow while other people shrink. Even though I'm so proud of my body ... lot of the cast being on diet drugs threw me a curveball. I'll be honest."

The Real Housewives of New Jersey airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo, with episodes streaming next day on Peacock.