Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images
On the heels of their big, splashy return to reality TV, the Kardashians are in a Los Angeles courtroom this week to finally face a $ 100 million defamation lawsuit filed by Blac Chyna in 2017. Chyna – whose real name is Angela White – has accused the “Powerful, vindictive” family of “slut shaming her on social media” following her 2016 split from Rob Kardashian, with whom she shares a child, and of killing her E! reality show, Rob & Chyna, during its second season of filming.
“When they got my No. 1 hit show killed back in January 2017, that not only hurt me financially and emotionally, that hurt my beautiful KIDS… What they did was so wrong,” Chyna wrote on Twitter earlier this month.
The defamation trial is the latest development in years of heated legal battles between Chyna and the Kardashians. Here’s what to know – and how we got here.
Chyna and Rob first confirmed their relationship in January 2016. From the start, it spelled drama for the Kardashian-Jenner family, as it overlapped with Kylie Jenner’s on-and-off relationship with rapper Tyga, Chyna’s ex and father of her son, King. Rob and Chyna went on to hit relationship milestones at warp speed – in public, at least – announcing their engagement three months later. The two welcomed their daughter, Dream, in November 2016, and documented the ups and downs of their relationship Rob & Chynawhich aired on E! – the network formerly home to Keeping Up With the Kardashians – from September to December of 2016. (The show included Kris Jenner and Kim, Khloé, and Kourtney Kardashian among its executive producers, and Rob and Chyna among its co-executive producers.) Throughout their time together, the couple intermittently sparked breakup speculation. by deleting Instagram pictures of each other.
In December 2016, Deadline reported that E! renewed Rob & Chyna for a second season. Later that month, however, Rob announced that the couple had officially split for good: “My baby girl is 1 month old and Chyna took her and left this beautiful home I just bought for us,” he posted on Instagram. On her Instagram, Chyna confirmed she was “DONE” with the relationship, claiming that Rob “verbally abused” her on a near-daily basis. “Honestly it’s only so much a person can take,” she wrote in a since-deleted post.
For several months after their breakup, Rob and Chyna sparred on social media, with Rob frequently accusing Chyna of cheating on him, which Chyna repeatedly denied. Things came to a head in July 2017, when Rob posted revenge porn of Chyna to his Instagram. (The social media platform temporarily booted him as a result.)
Chyna was subsequently granted a temporary restraining order against Rob after filing a petition that also cited an instance of physical abuse. “Revenge porn is a form of domestic abuse,” said Lisa Bloom, Chyna’s attorney at the time. Year E! spokesperson told Variety that production on Rob & Chyna had been put on hold, apparently by the Kardashians’ lead: “As always, we follow the family’s lead regarding their lives and relationships, and viewers saw firsthand as the family discussed putting Rob & Chyna on hold in an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians this spring, ”the spokesperson said, adding that the series wasn’t on E!‘s schedule and hadn’t been in production for months. While the show’s premiere enjoyed record-high cable viewership in 2016, it was panned by critics, who called it “the saddest show on television.”
In September 2017, two weeks after reaching an agreement in which Chyna dropped her domestic-abuse case against Rob, Rob and Kylie filed a lawsuit accusing Chyna of physically assaulting Rob with an iPhone cord and extorting the Kardashian-Jenner family for financial gain. The suit also claimed that Kylie incurred more than $ 100,000 of property damage during Chyna’s alleged rampage through her house. “Chyna’s desire to pursue a relationship and have a baby with Rob was nothing short of an outright fraud to shake down the Kardashian family without any concern for the consequences,” read the complaint. (Rob filed to dismiss the lawsuit earlier this year, saying he wanted to focus on his co-parenting relationship with Chyna.)
One month later, Chyna retaliated with a defamation lawsuit against Rob and the Kardashian family. The lawsuit, which cited Kris, Kylie, Kim, and Khloé among its defendants, claimed Chyna and her brand suffered “significant damages” from what had transpired. The suit called Rob “an abuser intent on destroying Angela White” (Rob has denied the abuse allegations) and the Kardashians “media predators” who fabricated the story of Chyna’s assault in their campaign to suspend E!‘s production of Rob & Chyna, allegedly costing Chyna millions through the show and associated revenue streams. Chyna also filed a separate lawsuit centered around revenge-porn allegations against Rob, which is scheduled to go to trial in early May, according to Rolling Stone.
In 2020, a judge denied the Kardashians’ request to dismiss Chyna’s defamation lawsuit. In court documents obtained by Vulture, the Kardashians insisted that Chyna had indeed “violently attacked” Rob, and that they had acted out of concern for his well-being. The papers also state that Chyna’s restraining order against Rob made it “physically impossible” for her to perform in the series, and Chyna’s agreement with E! said the network had the “option and not the obligation” to include Chyna in additional seasons. For CBS News, Chyna rejected the Kardashians’ offer to settle the case outside the court. Michael Rhodes, an attorney for the Kardashians, continues to deny Chyna’s allegations, telling ET days before the trial: “We aren’t going to sully this process by responding to slanderous nonsense.”
Jury selection for the trial began on April 18. Kim, Khloé, Kris, Kylie, Rob, and Kris’s boyfriend, Corey Gamble, are among those expected to testify, along with Ryan Seacrest and various others. E! executives – and, of course, Chyna. “I am so thankful that a jury will finally listen to what really happened behind closed doors — the lies that were told and the damage that was done,” Chyna said in a statement posted to Twitter earlier this month.
The Kardashian-Jenner women haven’t explicitly commented on the trial. According to a source for “Page Six” inside the courtroom on Tuesday, they appeared “visibly annoyed” after a potential juror said he couldn’t remain impartial to the case because he had seen Kim’s sex tape and would be replaying it over and over. over ”in his head if selected. On Tuesday, a lawyer for the Kardashians reportedly asked the judge to ban Chyna’s mother, Tokyo Toni, from the trial after Toni engaged in an anti-Kardashian rant on Instagram Live.
During opening statements, attorneys for both parties addressed Rob and Chyna’s alleged altercation at Kylie’s house in 2016. Per “Page Six,” Lynn Ciani, Chyna’s lawyer, argued that while Chyna admitted to damaging some of Kylie’s property during the fight – which she says began as a celebration of the show’s renewal and soured after Rob accused Chyna of cheating – Chyna never physically attacked Rob. Afterward, Ciani said Kris Jenner “falsely” told E! network executives that “Chyna beat the shit out of Rob’s face” and asked to have her removed from the show, allegedly calling Chyna “stupid” and “really ghetto” and suggesting that the network “ditch the bitch” in messages to producers. According to Rolling Stone, Ciani also claimed the Kardashian-Jenners “had a family vote” to cancel season two of Rob & Chyna.
Meanwhile, the Kardashians’ legal team maintained Chyna had attacked Rob at Kylie’s house, and that while the Kardashians wanted to spare Rob from further abuse, they ultimately weren’t behind the cancellation. “There’s no doubt that Chyna was physical with Mr. Kardashian,” said Rhodes, who argued E! scrapped the show because Rob and Chyna’s relationship had grown too toxic to air. “There is no Rob & Chyna show unless there’s a Rob and Chyna, ”Rhodes said. “Controversy does sell – but this is now verging on domestic abuse.”
Chyna took the witness stand Wednesday, testifying that the altercation at Kylie’s house never went beyond property damage and that she’d wrapped an iPhone cord around Rob’s neck as “a joke.” For NBC News, Chyna reiterated to jurors that the day started with a celebration over Rob & Chyna ‘s renewal, but things went south after Rob took her phone and accused her of cheating, adding that she smashed a gingerbread house and damaged a TV because she was “really upset.” The Kardashians’ legal team continued to press Chyna about allegations of physical violence from the night, including the incident with the cord and pressing Rob’s unloaded gun to his head. Chyna said she’d done those things as jokes after the fight died down: “I came up behind him, doing that jokingly to get his attention,” Chyna said of the iPhone cord. She claimed she grabbed Rob’s gun because he was “already messing” with it and she was “being funny” while he FaceTimed his friends. “It wasn’t loaded,” said Chyna, for “Page Six.” “I would never shoot Rob or anyone at that. It was just joking, like, ‘HA, HA!’ ”
The Kardashians’ legal team asked Chyna whether the trial was a publicity stunt, which Chyna denied, claiming the whole ordeal has been “very negative” for her career.
We will update as the case progresses.