Culture

Pulling Back The Curtain On Bill Cosby’s Dirty PR Game

CREDIT: AP Images/Victoria Will

Bill Cosby has reportedly hired a battalion of private detectives to dig up negative information about the 23 women who have publicly accused him of sexual assault, according to a New York Post story published Sunday.

Citing various unnamed sources, The Post reported that the legendary comedian is “paying six-figure fees to private investigators for information that might discredit his alleged victims,” deploying a “scorched-earth strategy in which anything negative in his accusers’ pasts is fair game.”

It’s a strategy that has been successful thus far, one source who “has worked with Cosby for at least a decade” said, noting they had already found negative information about two accusers, including supermodel Beverly Johnson.

“We found out that Beverly never told her live-in lover of several years what she’s now telling the media and we found that to be strange,” the source is quoted as saying. The investigators also reportedly dug up information about accuser Katherine McKee, including old internet posts which complimented Cosby and his stand-up act.

While the Post’s reporting has not been confirmed by Cosby or his attorneys, the hiring of private investigators to embarrass or discredit accusers bears a similarity to the comedian’s responses so far. Cosby’s attorneys have deemed supermodel Janice Dickinson’s rape account a “defamatory fabrication,” and threatened accuser Tamara Green with publishing “damaging information” about her if she continued to make her claims. A New York Times investigation published Sunday characterized Cosby’s legal strategy as “an organized and expensive effort that involved quashing accusations as they emerged while raising questions about the accusers’ character and motives, both publicly and surreptitiously.”

Since the multiple long-standing sexual assault and rape accusations against Cosby were revived earlier this year, more women have gone public with similar stories. But the comedian himself has been largely silent, breaking only to suggest that he has been treated unfairly by the media. His wife Camille has implied that all of the accusations are untrue.

Attempting to personally discredit an alleged rape victim by combing through her past statements is a common tactic. Kadeen Griffiths puts it succinctly for Bustle: “Often when a woman speaks out against their sexual abuser or rapist, people seize upon anything about either the victim or the circumstances of the rape in order to say that the victim wasn’t really raped at all,” she writes.”That phenomenon of victim-blaming or victim-shaming is how we get stories like the case of alleged victim Linda Joy Traitz, whose criminal history was cited as a reason not to take her story seriously.”

The majority of Cosby’s accusers tell a similar story: that he drugged and sexually assaulted them after they were seeking or were promised career help.

Cosby has never been charged with rape. Most of the alleged rapes took place many years ago — too long ago for the comedian to be charged. Cosby did settle a lawsuit in 2006 filed by one of his accusers out of court. The terms of the settlement remain confidential.