Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Bill Cosby hunkers down as scandal rages

19 November 2014, 06:50Frazier Moore

New York  — After Bill Cosby settled a civil lawsuit in 2006 alleging that he'd repeatedly sexually assaulted a woman, his image as America's dad may have been temporarily tarnished, but was far from destroyed.

But in recent weeks as allegations of other sexual assaults have taken hold in published reports and on social media, his rock-solid persona seems in danger of permanent erosion.

(Bill Cosby pauses during a news conference. AP)

"It's not like, if you have goodwill, you can borrow against that," says Eric B Dezenhall, a Washington-based crisis management consultant. "And if your goal is to get everybody to un-remember what they just heard — well, that's just not doable."

Cosby, 77, has never been charged with a crime and so far has steadfastly refused to address the uproar. He's granted few in-person interviews to media. And an attempt to put out the fire with a positive social media buzz backfired, generating criticism rather than praise.

There is no sign that his silent treatment — outside of a statement from his attorney Sunday characterising the accusations as "discredited" will placate the two accusers who have recently told their stories or outlast their demands that he answer to their claims.

His staunchest fans have dismissed the assault accusations that have dogged him for years while they overlooked his admissions of marital infidelity. For them, his image remains snugly aligned with that of Cliff Huxtable, the gentle, all-knowing husband and father he played on The Cosby Show as a champion of family values who, 20 years earlier, broke TV's colour barrier with his 1960s series I Spy.

But that image could hurt now more than help, even placing his legacy at risk.

"We love the concept of hypocrisy, whether it's true or not," says Dezenhall, who recently published the book Glass Jaw — A Manifesto for Defending Fragile Reputations in an Age of Instant Scandal. ''We love learning that somebody in reality may be the opposite of what they seem. ... The squeakier-clean your reputation, the more the public embraces these stories."

For older Cosby fans, Cosby undisputedly is "a venerated figure who stands for education and achievement and common sense," says NPR television critic Eric Deggans, who has reported on the accusations. "But there's an entire generation for whom his projects are distant memories with distant impact. And in later years, he has gone around demanding that poor black people pull themselves up by their bootstraps, get their house in order."

Cosby's blunt call for personal responsibility has often stigmatised him in young eyes not as America's dad but as America's cranky granddad "taking aim at youth culture," Deggans says.

It was this sort of attitude that may have prompted stand-up comedian Hannibal Buress to take aim at Cosby last month in Philadelphia where, during a performance, Buress mocked him, chiding the audience to "pull your pants up, black people, I was on TV in the '80s," and labelling Cosby "a rapist." (Buress has not responded to repeated requests from The Associated Press to discuss that performance.)

The sequence was captured on video and may have served as a major flashpoint. Barbara Bowman, who since 2006 has publicly accused Cosby of sexually assaulting her, gave Buress credit for bringing her long-voiced words new urgency in a 13 November WashingtonPost.com column, whose headline asked, "Why did it take 30 years for people to believe my story?"

Accusations from Cosby's past may also have been rekindled by their very absence from a new book, Cosby: His Life and Times, an affirmative biography that makes no mention of those allegations. Author Mark Whitaker did not respond to a request for comment.

The firestorm against Cosby has flared as he was enjoying a revival that began a year ago when a standup TV special — his first in three decades — aired on Comedy Central.

"There's a gap," Cosby told the AP a few days before its 23 November premiere, "between people knowing what I do and really believing that I still do that — and wondering what it is I really do."

Titled Far From Finished, the programme seemed to bridge that gap, attracting a robust 2 million viewers on the youth-skewing network.

Two months later, NBC confirmed rumours that a new sitcom starring Cosby as the patriarch of a multigenerational comedy series was on the drawing board.

NBC hasn't commented on the status of that project in recent months. Meanwhile, Cosby's busy standup schedule (he has at least 35 performances scheduled throughout the US and Canada through May of 2015) so far seems untouched by the rising controversy.

But Cosby has dropped out of interviews planned to promote his upcoming Netflix stand-up special. (Netflix on Monday declined to comment on whether plans have changed for its Nov. 27 premiere.) He cancelled an interview scheduled for Tuesday with the AP, and last week confirmed that he would not be making a scheduled appearance on Wednesday's Late Show with David Letterman.

Attempting to ride out the storm may not work. But what's the alternative?

As Dezenhall points out, gone are the days before social media when a public figure in a jam could sit down with Oprah Winfrey or Barbara Walters for a tell-all TV interview where he bared his soul and gained forgiveness from the masses.

"In the current culture, no matter what you do to defend yourself in one of these high-profile media vortexes, it generates multiple waves of new and negative coverage. Cosby has got to be thinking, 'Is the better of my very bad options to remain silent?'"

Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press.

- AP


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...