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They almost had it in the bag.
Tom Arnold claims he and NeNe Leakes were set to co-host their own daytime talk show by the same people who produced “The Wendy Williams Show” – until a purse feud between the reality star and the media personality derailed the gig.
The former “Roseanne” star, 63, tells Page Six he “connected” with Williams’ producers after a few appearances on her titular program and was presented with the concept.
“The reason they approached me is because they’d seen me go on ‘Wendy,’ and I had a great time,” he tells us. “The goal was to have [our show] go on right after ‘The Wendy Willams Show.’ And I said, ‘Oh, that sounds great! Let’s get together.’ And then we did.”
According to Arnold, the producers were “jazzed” about the concept, telling him they “felt it would be a home run” as the “Wendy” show was “killing it” at the time.”
“I thought, ‘With somebody like NeNe Leakes, how do you go wrong there?’ And then I figured out how you go wrong – make fun of somebody’s purse,” he said.
Arnold alleged to Page Six that “purse-gate” took place in 2014 after the then-“Real Housewives of Atlanta” star, 54, showed off her custom Hermès Birkin bag covered in hand-painted “NeNe-isms” made famous on the Bravo show, including “So nasty and so rude,” “Bloop” and “Close your legs to married men.”
After the handbag caught Williams’ attention, she asked both her viewers and Twitter followers, “Hot Question: What do think about @NeNeLeakes defacing her Birkin bag?”
The former radio host, 57, soon deleted the tweet, but not before Leakes got wind of the shady “Hot Topics” segment. She responded with a scathing blog post, which Arnold claims cost them their show.
“Wendy I am sure people think that I’ve done something to you, maybe we had a beef or I slept with your man but none of that is true! I’ve actually only been nice to you!” a furious Leakes penned at the time. “I gave you a beautiful black $3,200 Celine Phantom Bag to celebrate your 500th show but you haven’t spoken of that! But what you have chosen to do is constantly speak negative of me and lie on me! What you need to do is stop spewing hate! When it comes to gossip you are the lowest of the low!
“I know you hate because I turned down the chance to come on your Talk Show and I am sure you’re scared I will take your place (I know you have heard! Ummhmm wink wink) BE SCARED!” she continued. “I have a clothing line on HSN coming out in a few days and I know it must be hard for a black woman to support another black woman but you should try it sometime.”
Leakes added that the bag was painted over to “raise money for a worthy charity,” something she claimed Williams failed to mention to viewers. “I don’t have one Birkin I have five now run tell that WIG,” she wrote.
Arnold told us that it wasn’t long before he got a call from one of the producers, with whom he’d had “great meetings.”
“She called me and said, ‘I got some bad news. We can’t do the show.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ And she said, ‘Because NeNe made fun of Wendy Williams’ purse.’ And I go, ‘Who would care about somebody making fun of their purse?’ And the producer said, ‘Black women care.’ She explained to me it was a very personal thing,” he recalled.
“It was a big deal. She said, ‘Wendy has the No. 1 show. What if Roseanne [Barr was put in the same position]?’ I go, ‘Yeah, I guess she probably would get upset about somebody saying something about her purse.’”
The actor admitted that the situation was “an eye-opener,” which he was hoping to dive into on the first episode of their show. But Leakes was apparently “unrepentant.”
“You know, the thing about NeNe that they liked about her was that she’s outspoken, like Wendy Williams,” he told us, adding that he would “absolutely” give the gig another go.
“[NeNe] is fun and she’s smart and she has a lot to say. I don’t know how you could do better with a co-host.”
In addition to the Birkin debacle, Arnold hypothesized that Williams might have “felt competitive with NeNe, too, which is fine, because everybody’s competitive. But I guess the best way to get rid of your competition is to fire them.”
Arnold first spoke about the talk show on Wednesday’s episode of the “Behind the Velvet Rope with David Yontef” podcast, saying, “Wendy Williams was very powerful in that company, and Wendy Williams was like, ‘If they are coming, I am leaving. I am leaving if they are coming.’”
Leakes confirmed “there is truth” to Arnold’s story, telling Page Six that the production company, Debmar-Mercury, “pulled the deal and stopped all communication” with her following her response to Williams’ remarks. “Our deal went dead,” she alleged.
Reps for Williams did not immediately respond to our requests for comment.
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