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Posted by on Dec 3, 2014 in Arts & Entertainment, Featured, Law, Television, Women | 8 comments

The Implosion of Bill Cosby

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The world is watching the career and reputation of comedian Bill Cosby disintegrate virtually overnight in a humiliating, seemingly-daily, public miniseries involving a flood of allegations, many decades old — but increasingly believable. Because there’s now a pattern.

A reported 17 women have (so far) come forward to allege he befriended them, drugged and/or incapacitated them and in varying forms had his way with them. NBC scuttled a planned Cosby show. Netflix deep-sixed a Cosby special. He resigned from his alma mater’s Board of Trustees, refunded some money, watched some key concert gigs be cancelled — and is now a symbol of exactly how NOT to handle a scandal.

Future generations of public relations professors will point to the Cosby case as perhaps the worst spin control since Adam and Eve tried to explain to the Big Guy upstairs why they bit that apple.

It seemed like an SNL parody when on NPR Cosby offered a looooooooooooong pause, no-comment silence when asked about the sexual assault allegations. Not saying a single thing to answer a radio interview question didn’t make sense, unless he’s planning to become a mime.

Any p.r. person or anyone in the news media will tell you that the w-o-r-s-t thing someone accused in a scandal can do is to not comment, as if they somehow felt the scandal would then die. It spurs on media coverage. Was this his p.r. team’s misguided idea? His lawyer’s? Or his? One of his p.r. people ought to get him in something like the “Bob Filner headlock” and explain the media facts of life to him.

San Diego’s resigned Mayor Filner’s case was somewhat akin to Cosby’s. Filner had been accused by a prominent, highly respected female staffer of sexual harassment. A slew of other accusations then followed. In Canada, CBC mega-star talk show host Jian Ghomeshi was arrested by police after being fired by the CBC and filing suit against them following an allegation about nonconsensual sexual violence — which triggered a tsunami of additional allegations from women.

The common denominator with all three cases is that each involves a powerful man who allegedly got away with behavior that would gotten us mere mortals in legal trouble. When one woman spoke out, new and old media spread the word so more stepped forward. Former model Jewell Allison, who, in an interview with The New York Daily News, alleged Cosby forced her hand on his genitals, told the paper: “We may be looking at America’s greatest serial rapist that ever got away with this for the longest amount of time.”

Why did nothing happen if so many women had been purportedly molested? Writing for The Daily Beast, Mark Ebner notes how in 2007 he did a story with many allegations about Cosby that fit a pattern. He wrote that Cosby would befriend young, talented women, seem interested in their careers, and they’d drink either spiked drinks or drugs passed off as medicine. Then something happened.

“People magazine even ran an article on the lawsuits that were settled with several of the women, but never followed up on it,” he wrote. “And from my own experience, I can confirm that the story shook people to the core: Even more than Woody Allen, Bill Cosby was a beloved figure and civil-rights pioneer; hardened editors were horrified at the prospect of taking him down. I might as well have pitched a story about Martin Luther King, Jr. philandering with white women. The story went nowhere.”

The reason: all power isn’t political.

There’s business power, the power of celebrity and the power that someone has to suggest he or she can open doors quickly for someone and really cares about them.

Bill Cosby’s attorney has put out strong statements blasting the allegations, correctly noting that they aren’t coming from people who ever sued or pressed charges. But the damage to Cosby is done, and the “public verdict” on him seems already in.

Two months ago, most Americans considered Bill Cosby the grand old man of comedy. Today, many Americans listen to these allegations from years past and consider him the dirty old man of show business.

And they don’t find it funny.


Copyright 2014 Joe Gandelman. This weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Bill Cosby [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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  • carolineredbrook

    Only 15 years old!! That’s approaching pedophilia! Alleged sexual predators like Bill Cosby and accused pedophiles like Sylvain Kustyan, Jerry Sandusky, etc. must be apprehended before they have decades to prey upon our women and children. Sandusky is behind bars. Cosby has been disgraced. But unfortunately, Sylvain Kustyan, who has been formally charged with two counts each of 1st Degree Sodomy of a ten-year-old little boy, fled to avoid imminent arrest. Kustyan, formerly of Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Hermin/ Mazingarbe, France, is now a fugitive from the law. Victims of Child Sexual Abuse often suffer lifelong physical problems as well as the psychological and emotional trauma from their horrifying experiences. Male victims have 3x’s the heart attack risk and 10x’s the suicide rate. Since the average pedophile has 300 different victims in their lifetime and since the recidivism rate among pedophiles is virtually 100% they must be stopped ASAP!

  • kritt11

    We Americans build icons like Cosby up, worshiping our celebrity culture, and then are so shocked, shocked I tell you when they turn out to be badly flawed.
    BTW, many of those who did not charge Cosby were not able to get anyone to take the charges seriously, and if these women had sued, they would be accused of gold-digging by Cosby’s attorney. Too many in our society allow this double standard, and then put the accusers themselves on trial– “they just want money, attention, etc- why are they waiting until this moment to reveal their versions of what happened,etc. It is extremely difficult to prove rape or sexual assault against a powerful celebrity. These women are coming forward now because they hope that there will be strength in numbers, and that Cosby will pay in some way for his past.

  • DdW

    Good piece, Joe. Thanks.

  • JSpencer

    Thanks Joe. This business whereby the protective insulation of celebrity and power allows people to get away with behavior that would get “normal” people into deep trouble reveals a tragic flaw in our justice system. Accountability has to be levied on all people equally; when entertainers, sports stars, politicians, CEOs, etc. are treated with a different layer of justice we ALL suffer in the long run.

  • rudi

    Bill Cosby and Michael Jackson should be wiped from our collective memory. Both are/were phonies whose public image belied the true EVIL…

  • tidbits

    Do the powerful and famous get special treatment? Bill Cosby, Michael Jackson, Kobe Bryant, Fatty Arbuckle, Errol Flynn, Roman Polanski. It seems likely. And some would say another name belongs on the list of those who grope, grab, molest and assault without consent. Where should we place, or not place, William Jefferson Clinton also of multiple-accuser notoriety?
    This is no excuse for Cosby or any of the rest, just an interesting question some may wish to ponder.

    • JSpencer

      Sure, throw Clinton in the mix too, it’s fine with me, but the big picture gets more complicated when the person getting said “special treatment” is the POTUS rather than just an entertainer. Not saying it’s any less important, just that the ramifications are on an entirely different scale – for good or bad. Also there is also the question of just who is being taken advantage of. You raise good questions.

  • DdW

    Cosby served four years in the Navy as an enlisted hospital corpsman. He was discharged in 1956 as a 3rd class Petty Officer.

    In 2011, the Navy presented Cosby the title of honorary Chief Petty Officer.

    Today, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Master Chief
    Petty Officer of the Navy Michael Stevens said the Navy is
    revoking Bill Cosby’s honorary title because “allegations
    against Mr. Cosby are very serious and are in conflict with the Navy’s
    core values of honor, courage and commitment. “

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