Bill Cosby’s accusers are not afraid to speak out. By the dozens, women have come forward to allege that Cosby sexually assaulted them. But while their words have filled op-eds and interviews and press conferences, Cosby, for the most part, has refused to comment.
Yet Cosby came face-to-face with the allegations again in a new interview with Good Morning America’s Linsey Davis, a conversation which was ostensibly about Cosby’s work with the Black Belt Community Foundation but, in the clips released to the public thus far, focus almost entirely on Cosby’s reputation as a serial rapist.
During the interview, Davis asked Cosby, “Are you prepared for backlash? If a young person comes up to you and says, ‘My mom says you’ve done some bad things,’ how will you answer them? If they are pressing you, ‘Are you guilty? Did you do it? Are the allegations true?’”
I am prepared to tell this young person the truth about life. I’m not sure that they will come like that. I think many of them say, well, you’re a hypocrite. You say one thing, you say the other. My point is, okay, listen to me carefully. I’m telling you where the road is out. I’m telling you where, as you’re driving, you’re going to go into water and it looks like it might only be three inches deep, but you and your car are going to go down. Now, you want to go here, or you want to be concerned about who is giving you the message?
There was this pause after the word “truth.” You could be forgiven for getting hopeful in that moment: “I am prepared to tell this young person the truth.” But, no. And it seems rather optimistic of Cosby to assume that this hypothetical young person would say “You’re a hypocrite” and not “You’re a serial rapist.”
Davis then asked, “Are you concerned at all that, given the allegations, that may overshadow your message?”
“I’ve been in this business 52 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Cosby said. “And reality is the situation. And I can’t speak.”
Forty women have publicly condemned Cosby for sexually assaulting them. The accusations span decades. You’ve never seen anything like this, Cosby? What a coincidence, neither has anyone else.
ABC News VideoEdit descriptionabcnews.go.comIt is kind of amazing that, after all this time, Cosby still responds to questions about these allegations as if he is surprised and scandalized by their existence. Obviously, he knows this barrage of rape accusations is newsworthy and that any reasonable reporter will ask what, if anything, he wants to say in response. How does he not just have a boilerplate, go-to reply? He always appears to be scrambling for something vague and not-incriminating to say. His failure to have a clear dismissal-and-denial strategy calls to mind his sloppy written response to the revived allegations last fall: his ever-changing legal team, his contradictory statements.
Davis asked Felecia Lucky, president of the Black Belt Community Foundation, if the rape allegations “were enough to make you think twice about inviting Mr. Cosby?” Cosby will speak to hundreds of high school students in Demopolis and Selma and participate in the “March for Education” across the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge. Lucky acknowledged that she had second thoughts but decided “at the end of the day, what is most important was, how do we make sure the world knows the Black Belt children matter.”
Could Cosby’s participation, even on behalf of a good cause, shed a positive light on anything at the moment? In just six months, his reputation has fallen from mostly-beloved public figure to likely predator. His name, in association with the word “mentor,” scans as so absurd to a modern audience it is, literally, a joke.
And there is something especially disconcerting about the notion of Cosby spending a lot of intimate time with young people, considering the fact that Judy Huth, one of Cosby’s alleged victims, was 15 years old at the time of her assault. (A representative from the Black Belt Foundation, reached this morning by phone, said no one would be available to comment on this story.)
When Davis asked Cosby what he wants his legacy to be, Cosby shook his head and said, “I have a ton of ideas to put on television about people and their love for each other.”
This, again, demonstrates a willful obliviousness to reality: Cosby might want to be on television, but television has made it quite clear that it wants nothing to do with Cosby. TV Land yanked all the Cosby Show reruns from the air last November; NBC killed a Cosby project that was still in its early stages; Netflix shelved comedy special Bill Cosby 77, which was slated to premiere on Nov. 27 of last year, indefinitely. Multiple theaters have canceled his scheduled appearances.
Off-screen, Cosby resigned, presumably under pressure, from the Temple University Board of Trustees, and was stripped of his honorary chief petty officer designation by the Navy.
But Cosby has made a point of continuing to perform wherever and whenever he is able to do so, keeping up his tour with the trolling title of “Far From Finished.” When over 14,000 people signed a petition protesting Cosby’s April 27 show at the Cobb Center in Atlanta, Cosby posted a 19-second video to assure fans that “I’m going to perform because I love it when you laugh.”
His determination to stay on stage might not be enough to overcome the latest accusation, which could result in Cosby facing criminal charges. Actress Lili Bernard said that Cosby raped her in New Jersey, where there is no statute of limitations on sexual assault. Bernard came forward at a press conference hosted by Gloria Allred two weeks ago, the day after she reported her assault to the Atlantic City Police Department.
GMA is hyping the interview by claiming Cosby is responding to allegations for “the very first time,” even though Cosby has actually addressed them before. Last December, he told a Page Six reporter that he “only expect[s] the black media to uphold the standards of excellence in journalism.” During an interview with the Associated Press on Nov. 6, Cosby issued a brief “no comment” to questions about his alleged assaults and then tried to bully the AP reporter into not showing the interview footage: “If you want to consider yourself to be serious, it will not appear anywhere.”
This is about as close as Cosby gets to “responding” to the dozens of allegations against him: in this elliptical, I’m-the-real-victim-here sort of way. So his latest comments aren’t too surprising, even though they are disappointing and frustrating and, no matter how closely you read them, incomprehensible.