He’s been a cultural icon for decades, but a number of women have spent nearly that long accusing Bill Cosby of being something entirely more sinister. Although allegations against Cosby of sexual assault have been public for decades, a confluence of accusers coming forward has pushed the story to the top of the news — and into boardrooms as well. Netflix announced that it would postpone the launch of a comedy special involving Cosby, presumably in response to the allegations, although Netflix refused to elaborate:
Netflix won’t air a new Bill Cosby special after three women slammed the comedian with serious rape accusations.
“Bill Cosby 77” was due to premiere on Nov. 27, but Netflix announced it was postponing the show Tuesday ― just hours after a third woman claimed the comedian drugged and raped her.
Netflix did not say why it delayed the special and did not announce when it could air.
NBC might be next, the New York Daily News added. The longtime broadcast partner of America’s most recognizable comic had a sitcom planned for Cosby before the accusers began coming forward again:
As rape accusations continue to surface surrounding Bill Cosby, there is pressure mounting on NBC to scuttle a planned TV sitcom that was supposed to mark the comic’s triumphant return to the network.
But not even a laugh track is going to be able to drown out the chorus of accusers that have come forward since comedian Hannibal Buress called the 77-year-old TV legend a “rapist” while performing a stand-up routine in Philadelphia last month.
The latest accuser, Joan Tarshis, went public over the weekend to claim that Cosby raped her in 1969, back when she was a starstruck 19-year-old aspiring actress.
Tarshis did a CNN interview, in which she gave a story that is sounding very familiar. Tarshis told Don Lemon that she had been drugged prior to the assault in 1969, and that afterward she knew no one would believe her if she had gone public at that time:
CNN left out this part of the interview:
LEMON: You — you know, there are ways not to perform oral sex if you didn’t want to do it.
TARSHIS: Oh. Um, I was kind of stoned at the time, and quite honestly, that didn’t even enter my mind. Now I wish it would have.
LEMON: Right. Meaning the using of the teeth, right?
TARSHIS: Yes, that’s what I’m thinking you’re –
LEMON: As a weapon.
TARSHIS: Yeah, I didn’t even think of it.
LEMON: Biting. So, um –
I’m not sure where Lemon thought he was going with this line of questioning, but needless to say, it didn’t go over well with CNN’s viewers. Twitchy has a long list of responses, but this one pretty much sums it up (as well as provides the link to MMFA, from whom the transcript comes):
You really only have one job as a TV host: don't ask alleged rape victims if they considered biting the guy's dick. http://t.co/Rk2j66MiIm
— Tom Gara (@tomgara) November 19, 2014
Former supermodel Janice Dickenson added her voice to the growing list of public accusers against Cosby yesterday. Entertainment Tonight did an exclusive interview with Dickonson, who tried to tell the story a dozen years ago in her memoir. She told EW that her publisher demanded that it get pulled:
Dickinson says they had dinner in Lake Tahoe, and claims that he gave her a glass of red wine and a pill, which she asked for because she was menstruating and had stomach pains.
And that’s when she tells ET that things took a disturbing turn.
“The next morning I woke up, and I wasn’t wearing my pajamas, and I remember before I passed out that I had been sexually assaulted by this man,” she tells ET. “… Before I woke up in the morning, the last thing I remember was Bill Cosby in a patchwork robe, dropping his robe and getting on top of me. And I remember a lot of pain. The next morning I remember waking up with my pajamas off and there was semen in between my legs.”
Dickinson also says she tried to write about the assault in her 2002 autobiography No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World’s First Supermodel, but claims that when she submitted a draft with her full story to HarperCollins, Cosby and his lawyers pressured her and the publisher to remove the details.
Last Friday, another accuser wrote a column for the Washington Post wondering why it took another male comic to make the media start discussing the allegations against Cosby:
I’ve been telling my story publicly for nearly 10 years. When Constand brought her lawsuit, I found renewed confidence. I was determined to not be silent any more. In 2006, I was interviewed by Robert Huber for Philadelphia Magazine, and Alycia Lane for KYW-TV news in Philadelphia. A reporter wrote about my experience in the December 2006 issue of People Magazine. And last February, Katie Baker interviewed me for Newsweek. Bloggers and columnists wrote about that story for several months after it was published. Still, my complaint didn’t seem to take hold.
Only after a man, Hannibal Buress, called Bill Cosby a rapist in a comedy act last month did the public outcry begin in earnest. The original video of Buress’s performance went viral. This week, Twitter turned against him, too, with a meme that emblazoned rape scenarios across pictures of his face.
While I am grateful for the new attention to Cosby’s crimes, I must ask my own questions: Why wasn’t I believed? Why didn’t I get the same reaction of shock and revulsion when I originally reported it? Why was I, a victim of sexual assault, further wronged by victim blaming when I came forward? The women victimized by Bill Cosby have been talking about his crimes for more than a decade. Why didn’t our stories go viral?
Unfortunately, our experience isn’t unique. The entertainment world is rife with famous men who use their power to victimize and then silence young women who look up to them. Even when their victims speak out, the industry and the public turn blind eyes; these men’s celebrity, careers, and public adulation continue to thrive. Even now, Cosby has a new comedy special coming out on Netflix and NBC is set to give him a new sitcom.
Not any more. Most of these allegations have gone beyond the statute of limitations, but could still be actionable in civil court. At least one such lawsuit got settled quietly, as is not unusual and isn’t necessarily an indication of guilt. As we have seen in other venues, the proper way to adjudicate these kind of accusations is in court, not the media. Given the length of time in which these accusations have percolated, though, and the increasing insistence of possible victims in going public with them, the “we’re not going to dignify these allegations” response won’t be enough to stop the questions and demand for answers. Unless Cosby’s content to disappear into retirement, that is, and his sponsorship partners are content to do damage repair all on their own.
Ta-Nehisi Coates has a must-read take on this story, and the reluctance of journalists and commentators to address the allegations:
I published a reported essay in 2008, in this magazine, on these call-outs. In that essay, there is a brief and limp mention of the accusations against Cosby. Despite my opinions on Cosby suffusing the piece, there was no opinion offered on the rape accusations. This is not because I did not have an opinion. I felt at the time that I was taking on Cosby’s moralizing and wanted to stand on those things that I could definitively prove. Lacking physical evidence, adjudicating rape accusations is a murky business for journalists. But believing Bill Cosby does not require you to take one person’s word over another—it requires you take one person’s word over 15 others. …
The heart of the matter is this: A defender of Bill Cosby must, effectively, conjure a vast conspiracy, created to bring down one man, seemingly just out of spite. And people will do this work of conjuration, because it is hard to accept that people we love in one arena can commit great evil in another. It is hard to believe that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist because the belief doesn’t just indict Cosby, it indicts us. It damns us for drawing intimate conclusions about people based on pudding-pop commercials and popular TV shows. It destroys our ability to lean on icons for our morality. And it forces us back into a world where seemingly good men do unspeakably evil things, and this is just the chaos of human history. …
I have often thought about how those women would have felt had they read my piece. The subject was morality—and yet one of the biggest accusations of immorality was left for a few sentences, was rendered invisible.
I don’t have many writing regrets. But this is one of them. I regret not saying what I thought of the accusations, and then pursuing those thoughts. I regret it because the lack of pursuit puts me in league with people who either looked away, or did not look hard enough. I take it as a personal admonition to always go there, to never flinch, to never look away.
I agree with Coates on this point — the topic should be addressed. At the very least, it requires those who comment and opine on cultural issues to at least acknowledge that the story exists. One does not have to jump to a conclusion about the allegations to do so, but to refrain is a form of denial itself. If that is what Coates means by “go there,” he’s absolutely right.
Update: Retirement may be closer than first thought:
BREAKING: NBC scraps Bill Cosby project in wake of mounting sexual assault allegations, network confirms.
— The Associated Press (@AP) November 19, 2014