God, Cronkite, and Bill Cosby
It is ironic that an African American comedian is responsible for bringing down another African American comedian, but it looks like that’s what has happened. Back in October during a stand-up routine, comedian Hannibal Buress referred to Bill Cosby as a rapist, not once, but several times.
Said Buress, “Bill Cosby has the f**king smuggest old black man persona that I hate. (He says) ‘Pull up your pants black people.’ Oh yeah, well you raped women, Bill Cosby. (He says) ‘I don’t curse on stage.’ Yeah, but you rape women.”
Listening to the tape, audience laughter seemed a bit strained after Buress used the “R” word for the second time. They didn’t seem to know whether he was making a joke, or opening up an incredulously sick can of worms. As it turns out, he did both.
Almost immediately after Hannibal’s routine went viral, women from all over the country started coming forward to tell their stories of how the Cos allegedly raped them. To my knowledge, none of the women had ever met before, yet their tales of sexual assault were almost identical. Some of the incidents took place in hotel rooms, others in dressing rooms. One attack allegedly occurred at Cosby’s New York City brownstone, and another back stage at both the Carson and Letterman shows. But regardless of the venue, the common denominator was spiked drinks.
Typically and allegedly, Cosby would give his “victim” a glass of wine laced with a date rape drug. Once drugged, most of the women had foggy memories, but recalled Cosby standing over them, disrobing, then getting on top of them. The next thing they knew it was morning, and they awoke either totally or partially nude.
Variations of that scenario have been recounted by former super model Janice Dickinson, and (to date) 17 other women. Only one of the women, Louisa Moritz, says her alleged attack did not involve drugs or intercourse. In 1971, Moritz was preparing to make an appearance on The Tonight Show when, she says, Cosby entered her dressing room and forced his penis into her mouth. That incident, and all of the others (if true) speaks to the power and arrogance of a man who thought his fame and influence made him untouchable and unimpeachable.
The alleged rapes took place over a period of nearly 40 years, from 1965 to 2004, but during that time, only one woman went public. According to The National review, Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee sued Cosby for sexual assault. The case was settled out of court in 2004. The question is, why didn’t all of Cosby’s alleged victims come forward immediately after their attack? Perhaps the answer lies in a remark made by a former PR executive for the Coca Cola company, referring to a time when Cosby was a spokesperson for Coke, Jello, and numerous other products. According to The National Review, the executive said, “The three most believable personalities today are God, Walter Cronkite, and Bill Cosby.” Translation? Any woman who tried to accuse Cosby of anything other than saintly behavior, would simply not have been believed. That’s because potential judges and juries would have seen Bill as the kindly, caring TV dad from “The Cosby Show.”
Of course, the entertainment industry is a small community, so even though Cosby’s alleged victims didn’t go public, news of the assaults were commonly known or suspected by numerous individuals, including some in the press. Last week, New York Times columnist David Carr apologized for the role he and his brethren in the fourth estate might have played in turning a blind eye to Cosby’s many indiscretions. According to Fox news, even Cosby’s biographer Mark Whitaker was feeling guilty. In a tweet to Carr, Whitaker wrote, “I was wrong not to deal with the sexual assault charges against Cosby, and pursue them more aggressively.”
But even if the press had been more aggressive, it’s unlikely they could have taken on the iconic Cosby at the height of his popularity. Last week, the New York Daily News reported that Frank Scotti, a former NBC staffer is alleged to have been a bagman for Cosby’s pay-offs to women. According to the Daily News, Cosby gave Scotti bags of $100 dollar bills, which Frank then converted into money orders, and disbursed to Cosby’s alleged rape victims, in order to buy their silence. Meanwhile, Cosby had his own direct system for keeping the media at bay, just in case the bribes didn’t work. Last week, New York Post columnist Richard Johnson reported that in 1989, The National Enquirer called Cosby to tell the comedian they were about to break a story detailing his carousing with showgirls in Las Vegas. Cosby then allegedly made a deal with The Enquirer in which he would give them an exclusive story about his daughter Erin’s drug problem, if the tabloid would drop the Vegas story. And just a few days ago, another bombshell hit. It has been reported by the Associated Press that Cosby made a deal with the Enquirer in 2005 to kill a story about Beth Ferrier’s charges that he had raped her, in exchange for an exclusive interview about the Andrea Constand case. The reason? Had Ferrier’s accusations been published, it would have made Constand’s charges more believable.
These alleged rapes, pay-offs, and cover-ups reveal a side of Bill Cosby that the general public never knew. But how could they? For decades, Cosby set himself up as our moral compass. He was our arbiter of social values, always criticizing others for their bad behavior, even though his own behavior was far worse. In a speech at Constitution Hall in 2004, for instance, Cosby admonished parents to teach their children better morals. He also scolded Black people for using incorrect English. And then there was his infamous lecture to Black youth to pull up their low hanging, saggy pants. Last week, SNL anchor Michael Che commented, “Pull up your own damn pants Bill Cosby.” And during his glory days as a spokesman for Coca Cola, Cosby once called up Eddie Murphy and told him not to use profanity on stage. Murphy recounted the phone call to Richard Pryor who told Eddie to tell Cosby to “Have a Coke and a smile, and go f**k yourself.”
It’s not surprising, then, that Cosby’s fall from grace is being celebrated in some quarters, and the fall-out is growing every day. Netflix postponed Cosby’s Thanksgiving special, NBC scrapped a project that was in the works, TV Land has removed “The Cosby Show” from its line-up, and most of Cosby’s upcoming concert dates have been canceled. Cosby was also recently removed from High Point University’s Advisory Board, and stripped of his title as co-Chair of University of Massachusetts’ capital campaign. And though the statute of limitations will probably keep Dr. Cosby out of jail, some of his alleged rape victims are now considering a class action suit.
Cosby’s attorney Marty Singer has tried his best to discredit the 18 women who have come forward, saying that their claims are “ridiculous.” A frustrated Singer also posed the rhetorical question, “When will it end?” For Mr. Cosby’s alleged victims, I hope the answer is “Very soon.” !
JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11am on WMYV (cable channel 15).