The PJ Tatler

The Media and the Downfall of Bill Cosby

Iconic comic Bill Cosby resigned today from the Temple University Board of Trustees.

Cosby’s resignation follows weeks of building claims that he allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted numerous women across several decades spanning most of his illustrious entertainment career.

The accusations all come years after the attacks are alleged to have happened, and long after the statute of limitations has expired wherever they are said to have occurred. So he has not been arrested on any of the charges, nor will he ever be. Cosby has been subjected to a feeding frenzy, about which he has mostly refused to comment, except to label it all “innuendo” that he does not have to address.

Cosby has continued to perform his stand-up routine to packed houses and pleased crowds, while his lawyer calls the stories “fantastical.”

The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40, or even 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity.

These brand new claims about alleged decades-old events are becoming increasingly ridiculous, and it is completely illogical that so many people would have said nothing, done nothing, and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years.

Lawsuits are filed against people in the public eye every day. There has never been a shortage of lawyers willing to represent people with claims against rich, powerful men, so it makes no sense that not one of these new women who just came forward for the first time now ever asserted a legal claim back at the time they allege they had been sexually assaulted.

This situation is an unprecedented example of the media’s breakneck rush to run stories without any corroboration or adherence to traditional journalistic standards. Over and over again, we have refuted these new unsubstantiated stories with documentary evidence, only to have a new uncorroborated story crop up out of the woodwork. When will it end?

It is long past time for this media vilification of Mr. Cosby to stop.

Cosby was America’s favorite dad for decades. The Cosby Show led TV ratings from 1985 to 1990 and was never out of the top 20 during its 8-year run. Long before he played Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, Cosby was Fat Albert on Saturday morning cartoonsand long before that, he was arguably America’s most popular and most reliably family-0riented comic. In 1965 the Temple dropout was the first black lead on a network show, I Spy. Cosby won three Emmys for his work on that series. His 1983 HBO concert film, Bill Cosby: Himself, is still one of the most successful and iconic comedy specials in cable history. It’s still laugh-out-loud funny, and clean enough for the whole family to watch.

As himself, as Moses in a hilarious comedy bit, as the wise Dr. Huxtable, the 77-year-old Cosby became one of the most trusted celebrities in America. But if the stories are true, no one should have ever trusted him. The stories don’t square at all with the man we all thought we knew.

The question is, are the stories true? The accusations first surfaced in 2005 when Andrea Constand accused him of drugging and sexually assaulting her a year prior. She met Cosby at Temple in 2002. She says Cosby assaulted her in his Philadelphia home in 2004, the same year that Cosby started speaking out about parenting and family in the black community in a way that rankled many. Constand first went to the police, who believed her but declined to file charges due to lack of evidence. More than 13 alleged victims were reportedly set to testify against Cosby of similar abuse, but Constand settled the civil case out of court on undisclosed terms in 2006, and those witnesses disappeared.

Some of those and more accusers have come forward since comedian Hannibal Buress mentioned them in his comedy routine in October. There may be more than 20 accusers now.

The stories that Andrea Constand, Tamara Green, Beth Ferrier, Joan Tarshis, Victoria Valentino, Barbara Bowman and others tell differ in locations but are similar, and are similar to a comedy riff he did on his 1969 comedy album — a riff about drugging women with Spanish Fly.

According to the accusers, Cosby worked things so that he could be alone with her. He offered her some pills or a drink that he said would help her relax or make her feel better. The pills instead made her almost but not quite asleep, and unable to resist as he assaulted her, before she blacked out. Some say they did tell friends or family at the time of the attacks. Bowman explains why she never came forward with her story, which she says happened during The Cosby Show’s run, at the height of Cosby’s career and power. She was an aspiring actress who believed her connection to Cosby would help her career, and she did tell a lawyer — and the lawyer laughed at her. Gloria Allred wouldn’t listen to her. Bowman says Cosby repeatedly raped her. She stayed silent because Cosby was powerful and could make or destroy her acting career.

Destroyed, now, is Cosby’s career. His NBC and Netflix projects have been canceled. TV Land has pulled The Cosby Show from its lineup.

The media have played a special role in all of this. If the stories about Bill Cosby are true, then the media enabled him over the years by failing to pursue the truth. His biographers and interviewers and some journalists all knew of the allegations, yet they decided not to ask him about them. Now they’re doing mea culpas.

If Bill Cosby is innocent, then the media are helping to destroy an innocent man in his twilight years when he should bask in his fame, enjoy his wealth and be remembered for being America’s favorite dad while he speaks out on the ills of black America. Because the accusers waited so long, they never get their day in court — but neither does Bill Cosby. Conviction and exoneration are both impossible.

But if Bill Cosby is guilty, then many in the Hollywood and the media entertainment complex must have known yet covered for him for decades, cover that allowed him to become one of the nation’s most infamous serial rapists, while the Dr. Jekyll side of him built a false persona. That persona was worth millions, billions even, to thousand of people from Temple to TV land. The lie was worth more money to too many people than the truth.

After Ferguson, as Al Sharpton of hoax and deadly riot infamy meets with President Barack Obama over Ferguson unrest, and the president issues directives that will change policing but will not repair urban black America or save a single young black man, the nation needs Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable. It needs the post-2004 Bill Cosby who tried to use his influence and philanthropy to do so much good.

But Dr. Huxtable was always an artist’s creation, and Bill Cosby as we knew him is no more.