Bill Cosby’s Career and Legacy Moves Into Accelerated Freefall After Released Testimony
Comedian, actor and philanthropist Bill Cosby continues to experience fallout in the media and the court of public opinion amid allegations that he drugged and sexually assaulted dozens of women from as early as the mid-1960s up until the 2000s.
At issue is the recent release of documents by The Associated Press of a 2005 trial, in which Cosby admitted that he drugged two women with Quaaludes, a sedative, before having sexual intercourse with them. The 2005 case involved a lawsuit filed by Andrea Constand, a basketball coach at Temple University in Philadelphia. As The Guardian reported, the suit, in which Constand alleged Cosby abused her, settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Cosby’s testimony, which he provided under oath, had been sealed for the past decade.
Cosby’s latest woes stem from his apparent hypocrisy in lecturing to the Black community on morality and, ultimately, talking of pound cake.
“When you got the Quaaludes, was it in your mind that you were going to use these Quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with?” the lawyer asked Cosby. “Yes,” Cosby responded, according to the document.
U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a 25-page memorandum in which he justified releasing the document on the grounds that Cosby “donned the mantle of public moralist and mounted the proverbial electronic or print soap box to volunteer his views on, among other things, childrearing, family life, education, and crime,” and as a result opened himself up to more intense scrutiny than the average person.
Further, as MSNBC reported, Robreno concluded “the stark contrast between Bill Cosby, the public moralist, and Bill Cosby, the subject of serious allegations concerning improper (and perhaps criminal) conduct” was of interest not only to AP but to the public at large. Cosby’s attorney claimed there was “no legitimate public interest” in the case.
Further, the judge cited a May 2004 speech made by Cosby at an NAACP commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, in which the comedian moralized to the Black community, particularly Black parents. “Looking at the incarcerated, these are not political criminals,” Cosby said. “These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake! Then we all run out and are outraged: ‘The cops shouldn’t have shot him.’ What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?”
Following the release of the court document, the Los Angeles Police Department told ABC News it is opening an investigation into sexual abuse allegations made against Cosby, including allegations in which the statute of limitations has expired. “The LAPD will always investigate all reports of crimes regardless of the statute of limitations for when the incident occurred,” an LAPD spokesperson told The Guardian.
Most recently, the African-American TV network Centric, which is owned by BET, has decided to discontinue reruns of The Cosby Show, which originally aired from 1984 until 1992. In addition, Atlanta-based Bounce TV decided to pull reruns of Cosby, which broadcast on CBS from 1996 to 2000. NBC and Netflix recently canceled projects that were planned with Cosby, and last year he resigned from the board of trustees of his alma mater Temple University, a position he had held for 32 years.
Meanwhile, Walt Disney World is turning its back on Cosby, as theGrio reports the resort is removing a statue of the comedian from the Disney Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame Plaza at its Disney Hollywood Studios theme park near Orlando, Florida. The decision came as a result of a petition started by Brittany Gavrilova, niece of one of Cosby’s alleged victims.
Nearly 50 women have made allegations against Cosby, who as of today, has not been charged with a crime and had denied all allegations made against him.
Before the sexual allegations surfaced and began to damage his brand, Bill Cosby was known for his support of historically Black colleges and universities such as Spelman College. Bill and Camille Cosby gave $20 million to the Atlanta-based institution for an endowed professorship, which has been indefinitely suspended. With Cosby’s philanthropy in the Black community has come tough talk — especially to Black folks in the lower echelons of the socioeconomic hierarchy.
Given the myriad problems facing the Black community, a little tough talk—if presented out of love and a desire to help bring others up the ladder — can be a good thing. However, Cosby has been criticized for talking down to Black people — as he did during the “pound cake” speech — for wearing saggy pants, living in single-parent families and using Black English. Further, Cosby has been criticized for chastising Black people for their own poverty and blaming them solely, rather than racism, for their economic and educational woes. Moreover, the recent revelations that Cosby admitted to drugging women before having sex with them, while admonishing and moralizing to others about their own conduct, renders him at the least a hypocrite whose moral high ground has been cut from under his feet.