The latest damning evidence in the Cosby saga is this post-interview AP footage:
Amanda Hess blames the culture of entertainment journalism for allowing the allegations to go under the radar for so long, pointing to that AP interview as a prime example:
Entertainment journalists require access to rich, famous people, and rich, famous people require favorable press. How news organizations and celebrities negotiate that exchange depends on their relative status in the marketplace. When Cosby granted the AP interview at the beginning of the month, he believed that he was powerful enough to demand positive coverage, and ultimately, it appears the AP agreed.
But just ten days after the piece aired, Cosby’s stock had dropped considerably: In that time, Netflix, NBC, and TV Land had all cut ties, meaning that he had fewer friends, less influence, and very little leverage. As the power differential shifted, the AP’s complicity with Cosby in producing the art-related video and scuttling the rest began to pose a reputational risk to the news organization. (The AP notes in the new video that it decided to publish the additional footage in the new context of the “backdrop” of his shuttered business deals.) So: The AP rolled the tape of its interview touching on the rape allegations, and also included the tense off-the-cuff conversation that followed. The postscript contained the interview’s juiciest bits, but it also served as a sly explanation for why the AP failed to release the video earlier: The implication is that Cosby and his people intimidated the AP into silence.
But the video shows that the Associated Press reporter was not eager to approach the topic in the first place, and unwilling to justify his line of questioning when Cosby challenged him.
Bill Wyman also holds the media accountable:
The odd thing about Cosby’s downfall is that nothing had changed in the last decade; there was no suggestion that any of the events described by his new accusers had happened since the first allegations and an accompanying civil case, which was settled. The initial lack of followup by influential outlets created a sort of reverse pack mentality—a reinforcing silence. No one mentioned it, because no one else had.
This was helped along by the feel-good nature of much arts writing: If the point of the story is to promote a comedy appearance, or a new book or other product, a digression into allegations of drugging and sexual assault was buzzkill.
Others reflect on how one should approach Cosby’s work now that he’s widely seen as a rapist. Despite being “100 percent in favor of NBC yanking his sitcom,” Pilot Veruet laments TV Land’s removal of the show that made Cosby famous:
The Cosby Show may have been about a family that happened to be black, rather than about a black family, but that doesn’t negate the huge strides the show made. Most importantly, it doesn’t negate the fact that for many people, myself included, this was one of the first times I was seeing myself — my family, my skin, my hair — represented on television in a way that actually made me feel good. …
Aside from the show’s legacy, TV Land’s decision brings up a whole slew of questions that are impossible to answer: What are the rules when it comes to public erasure of a prominent figure and his work? What makes Cosby different from Roman Polanski or Woody Allen — two filmmakers who continue to work and get their films distributed, and whose movies still regularly air on television (I can’t imagine them ever getting yanked) — or any other terrible person who has also contributed something of value to society? Is it the sheer number and volume of victims, or something else at work here? And what does this mean for everyone else who worked, for so many years, on The Cosby Show and will now fail to get their share of the residuals? Will all of Cosby’s past work eventually see the same fate?
The thing that strikes me the most about TV Land’s choice is that it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with righteousness or respect for the victims; it appears to be a panicked business decision, a preemptive strike to ensure the network doesn’t receive any of the backlash that Netflix and NBC were getting prior to pulling their respective Cosby projects.
Todd VanDerWeff’s take:
Separating art from the artist — or condemning art made by terrible people — is never a zero sum game. You can find Cosby’s alleged actions so appalling that you can’t watch his show at all. You can also find his alleged actions appalling, yet find they don’t impact your ability to watch anything he’s ever done — or even appreciate his stand-up.
If you fit into that latter category, don’t worry that you’re tossing piles of cash his way if you fire up a favorite Cosby Show episode on Hulu. But if you find Cosby to be a monster and want to monetarily punish him somehow, you don’t really have a lot of recourse, unless you were planning to see him perform live soon and now won’t. Cosby’s considerable fortune — the one that made it possible for him to settle allegations against him out of court, the one that made it necessary to try him in the court of public opinion — was made long, long ago, and there’s little to be done about it now.
And Tim Teeman sums up much of the response over the question, “How could the guy who played Cliff Huxtable do this?”
Bill Cosby, it seems, can only be seen in two registers: sainted family man of a much-loved sitcom, or fallen, tarnished villain. There is no middle ground. There is no understanding that on The Cosby Show, Bill Cosby was playing a role, and playing it so well that America happily conflated character and actor. The conflation was so total that now America apparently feels cheated, or tricked somehow, that this person is not the character he played.
But Cosby never was, and it is not his failing that America took him to their hearts as so (indeed, ironically, that confidence trick was solely down to his acting brilliance). Cosby’s alleged crimes are horrific, but America’s infantile deification of celebrity, its crazy melding of the fictional and the real, underpins Cosby’s present position in the public stocks, as much as his alleged crimes.