What To Think Of Bill Cosby? Ctd

Lots of readers are still sounding off on this story:

I think the Cosby downfall has been the product of two things: our current cultural shift in thinking about sexual assault, and the democratization of the news cycle via social media. Once the young people get a hold of something, they push it to the surface and drive into action the crusty old media, who love to kowtow to the famous and powerful.


I was glancing through the latest blog entry about Bill Cosby and the thoughts on separating the character on TV from his real person … I just don’t think that’s possible. Because that’s the way he wanted it. He didn’t just play America’s favorite dad on TV; he parlayed that into a secondary career, via speaking engagements at colleges, or inserting himself into the public discourse as some sort of voice of wisdom on how other people should raise their children or conduct their lives. He wasn’t just an actor/comedian.

If these allegations turn out to be true, then every time you watch a re-run of The Cosby Show, his character – upstanding family man – will look macabre, not funny.

And I just remembered a quote I had read from his book Fatherhood (published in 1987 – three years into his role as America’s Favorite Dad) and knowing what we know now about the alleged assaults frequently being on young women in their late teens, it just gives me a chill:

A father… knows exactly what those boys at the mall have in their depraved little minds because he once owned such a depraved little mind himself. In fact, if he thinks enough about the plans that he used to have for young girls, the father not only will support his wife in keeping their daughter home but he might even run over to the mall and have a few of those boys arrested.

Yeah, I guess he’d know.

I so want this to not be true. But the man who made me want to eat Jello is making me queasy.

Another insists that “Cosby was never a good guy”:

One of the interesting things about the Cosby implosion is that in addition to all the allegations of rape, groping, and harassment, there are an awful lot of people chiming in on blogs to relate personal anecdotes about when they learned firsthand that Bill Cosby is an asshole. At commencement speeches, football games, and other public appearances, Cosby appears to have bullied and belittled people, sometimes to the point of tears. None of this rises to the level of sexual violence, but it’s an interesting complement to all the rape allegations.

An expert weighs in:

As someone who has been a therapist for both those convicted of sex crimes and victims of sex crime, the whole Bill Cosby issue has been difficult to watch. The primary reason being, that most of the defense seems to, on some level, rest on the belief that people have a connection to this man based on his public persona. Or even in the case of Whoopi Goldberg, a personal connection. But both of these relations assume that we can somehow know how a person will act in all circumstances, based on how they react to us and a what we can observe in some situations.

I don’t mean to get too mind-fuck-y, but when can we lay that belief to rest? I mean how many bootleg-produced crime docudramas and news clips of those knowing the perpetrator do we need to watch, where they teary eyed proclaim, ” they would never be capable of this”, before we understand that someone who can display empathy and charisma in one arena, be capable of evil in another? We can generate composite sketches of people, but that is about it.

Look, 15 women have made accusations and those that have come forth have remarkably similar stories. Some of them are highly accomplished, who are doing nothing but risking their own livelihood by sharing their story. Further, the stories that I have heard are all consistent with trademark characteristics of someone with power, who grooms their victims and understands their own social capital and how that can be used against their victims.

Either these women held a conference, read intensive literature on the hallmarks of serial rapist and the abuses of power and decided to come forth, or Bill Cosby is a wonderful comedian, transformational role model for thousands, public intellectual and a rapist. As someone who both hates binaries and grew up loving Bill Cosby, both options area tragedy. But they also cannot be true at the same time.

Another reader remarks on this chilling YouTube:

The buried AP footage should be mandatory viewing for those who are blaming Cosby’s accusers. What you see in the iced stare that causes the interviewer to squirm is the classic Jedi mindfuck of a predator. Cosby insists that the mere posing of a question be censored: “If you want to consider yourself to be serious.” He repeatedly inverts reality by claiming AP’s “integrity” lies in NOT doing their job as journalists. In this footage, we see the reporter and producers cave swiftly to the chilly, implicit menace that Cosby radiates, as well as to the narcissist’s inverted truth.

I know that gaze well. As a writer whose career began at Playboy – and as any female writer today will confirm – these assaults-qua-career-transactions are standard fare. Experience with abuse at home made me hypervigilant against the situations Cosby’s accusers describe, but I’ve seen them and occasionally (very shamefully) neared them. You can blame the victim, but first watch how Cosby flips the tables on these journalists, convincing them there’s more integrity in helping him cover his crimes than in exposing them. That’s the power of a narcissistic predator. It’s real. And his threat feels real. What has silenced this victims for so long is their willingness to blame themselves.

Many thanks for your thoughtful coverage of this story.

What To Think Of Bill Cosby? Ctd

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.

What To Think Of Bill Cosby? Ctd

Whoopi Goldberg, a diehard Polanski defender, is skeptical of the allegations against Bill Cosby:

Readers react to the disturbing story:

I certainly understand Barbara Bowman’s anger. I think the answer to her question, of course, has more than a little to do with race. In this country, accusing a black man of raping a white woman comes with the burden of our racism and history of oppression. And when that man is a beloved entertainer and symbol of American fatherhood? You are right that his accusers had and have absolutely nothing to gain and everything to lose. I just can’t imagine what these women have gone through emotionally.

Hannibal Buress, by virtue of his gender and race, made it possible for us to have this conversation at long last. That it took a man to legitimize their stories is most unfair. We owe Buress our gratitude nonetheless.

Another wonders why Cosby didn’t get his comeuppance sooner:

Ten years ago we still had more of a top-down media structure. “Going viral” was not a thing yet. YouTube hadn’t even started. Instead, shocking things generally had to pass through gatekeepers, whose incentives were basically not to piss off the wrong people. Rape accusations at the time were considered not appropriate for polite company unless it reinforced an existing narrative. I’m sure many media outlets heard of these accusations, but dismissed them because they weren’t “truthy” enough.

How another reader on our Facebook page views the story:

He said / she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said.

But a couple readers share Whoopi’s skepticism:

You wrote, “Believing Bill Cosby does not require you to take one person’s word over another – it requires you take one person’s word over 15 others.”

I have no idea what Cosby did back in the day.  It would seem highly risky for a black man in the ’60s and ’70s to force himself on a white woman, but people have done risky things before.  It was a long time ago, however, and it seems like too long a time to determine the truth of his or any other case without any real evidence.

The reason I’m writing this email however is to point out the problem with the “15 others” claim.  The longer the time period, the more numerous the false claims/false memories.  Did they get drunk and have sex with Cosby and regret it later and they have now over the years convinced themselves he must have slipped something into their drink 30 years ago?  Did Cosby just hit on them years ago and grabbed a boob and they story grew in their mind?  (Still bad, still inappropriate, but not as bad as rape).  Did they have a sleazy experience with Cosby, believe that he could have raped somebody and embellish their story to help other victims?


If Bowman really wanted her story to come to light, she should not have settled and allowed the other assaulted women to testify in a trial.  She accepted a settlement, and the reason to settle something like this is so the perpetrator can keep it as quiet as possible.  She had a hand in keeping this quiet, and was financially rewarded for doing so.  To complain about it now is disingenuous.

Update from a reader:

Cosby’s settlement was with Andrea Constand, not Barbara Bowman. She came forward to testify on behalf of Constand in a potential trial. That trial never took place because of the settlement, but Bowman has every right to speak up and is under no obligation to keep anything quiet.

Another adds:

As Bowman states in her Washington Post op-ed, “I have never received any money from Bill Cosby and have not asked for it.”

A torn reader rightfully falls on the side of the many female accusers:

I’ve been having a hard time dealing with the evidence that Bill Cosby is a rapist, but at the very minimum its helping me to understand why people sometimes defend and even excuse celebrities that are caught doing horrible things. Cosby was a fixture of my childhood. His public persona wasn’t just a source of humor for me, growing up, but also of comfort. I didn’t have an admirable father, so having someone like him as an example of what a father could be was meaningful to me. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he helped me through some hard periods.

Realizing that the real Cosby isn’t the same as the person I admired is hard. I’m feeling a profound sense of loss because that man I admired isn’t an admirable man. So what do I do with all of the positive experiences and, yes, values that I got from him? Is it still possible to admire the message while being disgusted with the messenger? Does the hypocrisy and evil negate the virtue?

Ultimately, I must side with the victims. If he hurt people (and I think he did), then he’s scum. And he’s a worse sort of scum for pretending to be a friendly, fatherly figure. I won’t make excuses and I won’t try to seek out some sort of false balance. But I also can’t do that without feeling hurt and without having to fight an urge to defend the man that I thought he was, even though that man was just an illusion.

Another update from a reader, who spreads the blame around:

I think NBC – who had a show in development with Cosby – is getting off awful lightly.

Yes, the accusations against Cosby slipped out of mainstream consciousness – but it was certainly no secret at NBC! For years, women have alleged that he used his position at the network in the 1980s to host private counseling sessions in which he drugged and raped them. These claims must’ve made at least some impression when they were aired in court just eight years ago.

Consider also that the claims against Cosby stretch into 2004(!) when Andrea Constand, a young employee at Cosby’s doting alma mater, says she was drugged and assaulted in his Philly mansion. Is it any mystery what Cosby had in store for the young female professionals that NBC was prepared to hand over to him? Do 67-year-old rapists not become 77-year-old rapists? Is this how cataract-eyed octogenarians find new verve for a career comeback?

The shameful truth is this: the only thing that stopped NBC from furnishing a serial rapist with a new crop of eager young professional women was a 90 second cell phone video of a stand-up routine. And that’s a scandal.

In the renaissance age of feminist, woman-focused journalism, how was that allowed to happen? Why did spaces like Vox, Gawker Inc. and Slate XX devote coverage to the sexism of The Amazing Spiderwoman, but let NBC announce a deal with a prolific rapist without a peep? Why was gamergate covered like the modern triangle shirtwaist fire, but the new Cosby show ignored entirely? Why dig so obsessively into nerdy, off-the-beaten-path subcultures when fucking NBC is setting Bill Cosby loose on a new group of subservient girls?

NBC, for their part, announced the cancellation of the Cosby project in the protective wake of Netflix’s announcement. They’re now attempting to quietly tip-toe away from this mess as the public descends on Cosby. They should not be allowed to.

What To Think Of Bill Cosby?

Reading through six near-identical accounts of women who publicly testify that he drugged and raped them, it seems clear to me, at least, that he is a serial sexual abuser and rapist. Does he deserve the benefit of the doubt? In a court of law, absolutely. In the court of public opinion? Not at all. The odds of all these women lying – when they have nothing to gain and a certain amount to lose from telling the truth – is close to zero. Or as Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it:

Believing Bill Cosby does not require you to take one person’s word over another—it requires you take one person’s word over 15 others.

Here’s the latest version from Janice Dickinson:

And the fact that he got away with this abuse is not at all surprising. In Britain, we now have a flurry of cases where stars in the era of peak network TV were treated by almost everyone as demi-gods: unimpeachable, untouchable, and beyond any human accountability. And they thereby got away with the rape of children, of women, of the mentally ill, and even of corpses in plain sight. Only decades later have they been called to account, but in Jimmy Savile’s case not till after his death.

That this entire issue only resurfaced because of a man’s comedy routine is also disturbing. I take Barbara Bowman’s point seriously:

Only after a man, Hannibal Buress, called Bill Cosby a rapist in a comedy act last month did the public outcry begin in earnest. The original video of Buress’ performance went viral. This week, Twitter turned against him, too, with a meme that emblazoned rape scenarios across pictures of his face.

While I am grateful for the new attention to Cosby’s crimes, I must ask my own questions: Why wasn’t I believed? Why didn’t I get the same reaction of shock and revulsion when I originally reported it? Why was I, a victim of sexual assault, further wronged by victim blaming when I came forward? The women victimized by Bill Cosby have been talking about his crimes for more than a decade. Why didn’t our stories go viral?

I don’t know. I wasn’t really aware of any of this till recently. But it seems to me the least we can do to honor these women – and accord them some way overdue respect – is to treat Cosby differently in public life.