'RHONJ's Jennifer Aydin on 'Hypocrite' Margaret Josephs and Being 'Saddened' by Other Co-Stars (Exclusive)
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Jennifer Aydin is done being called a hypocrite. Triggered? Yes. Hypocrite? No.
Margaret Josephs threw that label on her The Real Housewives of New Jersey co-star during season 12, after Margaret exposed Jennifer's husband, Dr. Bill Aydin, for once having an affair -- something Jennifer has repeatedly judged Margaret for having in the past. But Jennifer says she's not a hypocrite; she didn't have an affair. Her husband did.
"I wasn't mad that she was a cheater," Jennifer explains to ET over video chat. "And I know now that I didn't articulate it in that way. I think I was just annoyed or irritated at the way that she boasted about it, because [her now-husband, Joe Benigno's] got an ex-wife somewhere -- and she has an ex-husband and she has stepchildren -- and doesn't she know how hurtful this is to constantly repeat it over and over? ... I would be very hurt if my husband bragged about this infidelity."
"I just kept wondering what was her purpose on just almost making it a headline, like it was funny, and things that she would say on camera that she knows people are going to see," she adds. "Like, we were at a party last year and she was saying how Joe used to wash the stench of her off before he went home to his wife, or something to that effect. And I was just like, just don't talk like that. Like just be respectful. It's TMI. We don't need to know. We got it."
Margaret pulled out Jennifer and Bill's secret at the first, big group event of the season, a poke back at Jennifer for slamming the other women on the cast during the off-season.
"I get why she did it," Jennifer admits. "I don't think the way she went about it was right. Like, if she really wanted to do me a solid, she could have called me up and said, 'Listen, I have this information. I'm going to bring it out. I'm going to say it...' maybe giving me the opportunity to say to my own voice, in my own way. I was very ambushed and I felt like I was very caught off guard."
Even so, looking back, Jennifer believes Margaret exposing the information was "premeditated."
"I'm sure she was planning it," Jennifer presumes, sticking to her assumption that Margaret wanted to get back at her for stirring the pot at the season 11 reunion and taking digs at some of the cast on social media after the taping. "Like, what, are you trying to embarrass me in the public? Trying to gang up on me? I'm not going to take that. So that's one of the reasons why it ignited me to call Margaret a snake."
"Everything that I've done to Margaret has actually been in retaliation to what she's done to me," Jennifer professes. "It's just, for some reason, the audience likes to start at me first. But if you could just backtrack to the core, to the beginning of it all, you'll see that at the end of the day, it's Margaret usually saying something to me where I say something in retaliation."
Margaret's hinted at knowing about Bill's past indiscretion since Jennifer's first season on the show, nearly five years ago, but Jennifer believes it actually only recently came to Margaret's attention.
"What courtesy did she have to me?" she asks, referencing the timing of it all. "I think it was better for her to do it back [in season 9], because at least back then there was no history and she really didn't care. So why wouldn't she blurt it out? She would think like, 'Oh, she came onto the show. She knew it's, like, all bets are off. I'm going to out her...' So I feel that if she did have that information for real, that she would've used it. So I don't believe that she's had it all this time."
"I do believe that she knew when we were filming our [season 11] reunion in New York," Jennifer continues. "And again, it looks like she told Melissa [Gorga] and Jackie [Goldschneider] -- so all those times she got mad at me for like, let's say, telling Teresa [Giudice] what Bill said at boys' night. 'Why did you tell Theresa?!' I don't know. We tell our friends s**t. You told Melissa and Jackie about my husband's affair when you obviously are preaching, 'Don't gossip...' but yet you gossip? So, I think that's hypocritical in itself actually."
Yes, Jennifer is turning Margaret's own words against her, even recently unearthing a clip from the RHONJ vault on Instagram from Margaret's first season on the show to prove her point. During the season 8 reunion, Margaret slammed insinuations by castmates about the state of Teresa's marriage, professing, "But when she said something like, ‘Joe is cheating on Teresa, Teresa is cheating on Joe…' that just doesn't hurt Teresa, that hurts Teresa's entire family."
"She took the words right out of my mouth!" Jennifer cracks. "And it was interesting, when I saw that clip -- and I don't remember that clip, I don't remember, and I watched that season, but obviously we don't pay attention to detail until it affects you -- and it had come up on my feed just randomly. And I was like, this is like poetic justice speaking to me, because it just came off the heat of her constantly calling me a hypocrite."
"So no, when you say like, 'Oh, she's with the same thing and it's in her own backyard...'No, I'm not," Jennifer adds. "He doesn't go around bragging to everybody on how he cheated on me. It is not the same thing. So when I saw that, I just thought, 'You know what? I'm in a good place with her, but this is fact. It's from her own mouth. So she can't get mad at me for saying it. She said it. And I agree with her.' I agree with Margaret, yes."
Jennifer claims Bill's affair was a secret the couple planned to take to the grave, but according to Margaret, it was actually an open secret around town.
"In my defense, when I found out about the affair, as an angered, emotional wife, I did email the office manager and said like, 'Hey, you're letting home wreckers into your practice, blah, blah, blah..'" Jennifer confesses, while also seemingly explaining why Margaret may have believed Bill had an affair with his office manager instead of a pharmaceutical sales rep.
"It's not like the practice didn't know," she says. "However, once I started this journey on the show, I had never gotten any messages from anybody, because I was scared. I was like, what if somebody from that practice ever tells anybody? There was never any messages of like, 'Oh, we're known to your husband to be a cheater!'"
Margaret did make comments about Bill having a girlfriend and having to sleep in the pool house during season 9, which immediately angered Jennifer. But Jennifer says that poke didn't feel like it was really about the affair at that time.
"Those were so unfounded, there was nothing ever that was credible," she says. "So I really thought I was in the clear. I'm on the show three years and I'm like, OK, no one's brought it up until now. So I'm in the clear."
When the secret did come out on the show, however, Jennifer was forced to face the hurt for the first time. Bill's dalliance came more than a decade ago, uncovered by Jennifer just days before she was set to give birth to their fourth child, Christian, who is now 11.
"I don't want to, in essence, punish myself or my child for something that [Bill] did," Jennifer explains of her decision to sweep the affair under the rug. "I'm going to take one for the team and let us go through the motions of all the happy things and happy times. ... And it's worked for us. It made our relationship stronger. He was trying so hard from months and months and months to win back my trust. And he did. And I started paying more attention to him. We started doing more romantic things together. I feel that ultimately it made our relationship stronger."
The pair is now having to have some tough conversations they avoided for years. "You know what? I had them all on camera," Jennifer reveals. "I didn't hold back. And you guys are going to see it."
Some of those chats pop up in the season 12 trailer, including moments where it appears Jennifer is discussing a separation from Bill.
"There were times where I didn't feel my husband was as supportive as I needed him to be," she shares. "And I felt like the perception was coming off as, he didn't care. And he was really just embarrassed about the situation and almost wanted to hide in a sense, which I get. I get. But I'm drowning, I'm fighting with these women and I need all of the support I can get. And when I wasn't receiving it from him, I was like, well, I'm fighting with all these women for you, and if you're not going to sit here and back me up, then what am I doing all of this for? Am I the one that's naive and maybe not seeing a bigger picture? So I was struggling to figure that out."
In another emotional clip from the trailer, Jennifer cries to an unidentified woman, "I just thought I'd have more time."
"We wrapped filming, and as soon as I opened my phone and my Instagram, I just saw that bloggers had leaked the information and that someone had made a TikTok," Jennifer reveals of the emotional moment. "And I was mortified because I was like, 'Oh my god, I thought I had a lot of time.' By the time they get all the footage and they edit and it comes to air, I'm going to amp myself up into telling my children. And I felt like I wasn't prepared. And I felt like I had to get ready to tell them something that I wasn't really ready to tell them. So I was breaking down, and the cameras happened to be there, and my producer was comforting me and I was just like, I thought I'd have more time."
Jennifer quickly learned that the time was now, as her youngest daughter, Olivia, saw the news while scrolling TikTok. The 9-year-old attempted to play gossip cop on the platform, commenting back to posters that it was fake news, which ultimately led Jennifer to confirm the story to Olivia and her four other children. Jennifer recalls sharing the silver lining of the story with Olivia.
"'The important part is that we had you after,'" she says she told her daughter. "'If I didn't stay with Daddy, then we would never have had you. So I'm so grateful for that. And we have this beautiful life together.'''
Jennifer then launches into a bit of a defense about how boastful she can be about her "perfect life," which Margaret also criticizes her for.
"I mean, sometimes when I talk about the house -- listen, the house is so massive, it's got a personality of its own," she rattles off. "For me to not mention the house would not be true as far as a descriptive characteristic of my life. It's not a lot. I'm comfortable. I'm happy. And I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I'm not for the sake of offending somebody. I'm trying to paint a picture here when I talk about this lovely house, because it took a lot of sacrifices to get here. My husband worked nights. I spent holidays alone. I spent nights alone with kids all the time. I moved myself. I painted apartments by myself. I even caulked my own bathroom. OK? I went to YouTube and learned how to caulk my own bathroom. So don't tell me that I can't be proud of where I am today. Because I am."
Fans noticed Jennifer seemingly increased the amount of pictures she was sharing of her life, especially with Bill, over the course of the first few weeks of RHONJ season 12 airing, but Jennifer says her posting cadence is the same as always.
"I always like to take pictures," she says. "People act like this is the first time that I've ever posted pictures of my husband. Like, scroll down my feed folks. My husband's been there."
"He's trying extra hard lately, so I'm appreciating that," Jennifer adds. "What, am I not going to give my man attention when he's giving me so much attention? That's what got us in that mess in the first place, basically. Not paying enough attention to each other."
Having to relive an already traumatic experience is proving easier than Jennifer might've thought, but she's still struggling a bit -- especially when it comes to her and Margaret's future as friends. While the two seemingly worked to a better place over the course of filming, watching back the experience months later has Jennifer back in her feelings a bit.
"The rational side of me is saying, 'We've moved on, we're in a good place...' but the emotional side of me feels very betrayed," she shares. "As a woman, as a fellow female empowerment person, it's hurtful. So I'm struggling with that. I'm still figuring it out though."
"There are skeletons that I know about these girls, and unless somebody brings it out onto social media first, or they it up on their own accord, I'm not touching it," she says, shedding light on her state of mind when it comes to operating in this circle.
Jennifer did gain some unexpected allies in this chaos, though, most notably Jackie. While the women joined the show at the same time, they never quite bonded until season 12.
"Listen, I know Jackie to be a sweet person," Jennifer reflects. "I think maybe she's sometimes manipulated by Margaret, which Margaret has that effect on people. But you know, people will say I'm manipulated by Teresa, so to each his own. But I was very pleasantly surprised, and if anybody could relate -- and I know she doesn't like me saying relate -- but she did go through something where her kids were potentially going to be hurt, so I was glad that at least I had her as an ally."
Episode 3 left off with Jackie and Dolores Catania in the middle of a near-physical altercation over the Jennifer situation, after Jackie confronted Dolores for being a phony friend to Jennifer.
"If you're friends with somebody, you should be able to have a conversation," Jennifer says of watching things escalate. "This wasn't the first time that someone had told me that they didn't think Dolores was my friend. Over the years, I've had multiple people come up to me and say like, 'Do you think she's your friend? She's not so nice to you on her interviews...' And I'm always like defending her saying, 'Well, maybe just felt like that way in that moment...' And if we're real friends, I need to be able to respect her decision. Doesn't mean she doesn't like me. And now it's like, all these people are coming up to me telling me, 'You really think she's your friend?' I have questions now. What are you saying behind my back that are giving these people the impression that you are not my friend?"
"I do know that Dolores is closer with Margaret than me," she continues. "That was not to initiate any reaction from Dolores. That was just simply stating a fact, and Dolores, she's allowed to be better friends with somebody else than me. Her and Margaret are more in the same age group. Maybe they spend more time together. I have younger kids. Whatever the case may be. This is not a competition. You should not get mad that I'm telling you that people think you're not my friend. Why don't you ask them, 'What is it that I'm doing that's making you say that?' And that's all that I was trying to do. And it turned into some big thing. And it's like, that wasn't my intention. I wanted to have a conversation, not a confrontation."
Months removed from the moment, Jennifer still doesn't know where she stands with Dolores.
"I'm still trying to figure that out," she admits. "I don't know. I'm saddened by some of the things that I've seen obviously, but at this point, we'll just take it up at reunion."
Before reunion, though, there is still a lot of season to watch -- including two more physical altercations, the first between Jennifer and Melissa. The two get in each other's faces during the group's trip down to the Jersey Shore.
"At the end of the day, all I could say is that I will defend myself," Jennifer teases of the tense moment. "I'm not going to sit there and be a doormat for anybody. It's not who I am. And I have super quick reflexes. So sometimes I react before I think -- and she charged it me."
Jennifer and Melissa found their way to friendship over the course of the season, though.
"At the end of the day, I'd rather be friends with these girls than not," Jennifer muses. "It makes it easier, and especially because I am so close with Teresa. Teresa's family is everything to her, and she has stated to me over and over again that [her brother, Melissa's husband, Joe Gorga] is all the family that she had has left that she considers, and that's his wife. She's not going anywhere. So if I care about my friendship with Teresa, then I'm going to make a compromise -- we all make compromises for our relationships, whether it's a significant other or a friendship -- this is not about being an a**-kisser or whatever. I'm a good friend. If you were my friend, you would know that. So if it's important to my friend to be nice to her family, then that's what I'm going to do."
The other physical altercation to come is between Teresa and Margaret, with Teresa unloading the contents of a dinner table onto her co-star during the cast's trip to Nashville. When asked if Teresa's attack on Margaret was warranted, Jennifer offers a curt, "Yes."
"I was very long-winded with every other answer," she quips. "I think you got a keeper with this one."
The Real Housewives of New Jersey airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo.
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