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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Wow. Just … wow.

So what’s next?

Will it turn out Mother Teresa was a pornographer?

Or Mr. Rogers a meth head?

Is Billy Graham running a prostitution ring?

Why not? Such ridiculous scenarios seem far less so in the wake of recent news. Namely, renewed accusations that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist. Bill Cosby, the genial, avuncular comic who has made us laugh forever. Bill Cosby, the sleek secret agent who wisecracked with Robert Culp as they fought the Cold War on I Spy. Bill Cosby, the wise, warm, witty father on The Cosby Show, the ’80s sitcom that resurrected sitcoms, saved NBC and made him America’s Dad. Bill Cosby, the friendly pitchman for Jell-O, Coca Cola and old school values, the door-opening pioneer who helped make possible the likes of Chris Rock, Denzel Washington and Jamie Foxx.

How do you get from all that to … serial rapist? And make no mistake: These allegations do not “tarnish” his legacy. If true, they become his legacy, reducing to a distant second all his achievements, all those aspirational lectures about values, all those doors he opened and laughter he earned.

Granted, Americans are exceptionally forgiving of their celebrities. Having served time for obstruction of justice, Martha Stewart is back doing her cooking and crafts shtick. The accused racist Paula Deen is cooking again. The accused rapist Kobe Bryant is still playing basketball. The convicted rapist Mike Tyson has a new cartoon show.

But Cosby would likely find the road back to respectability more difficult than they, if not impossible. In the first place, the crime he is accused of — drugging and raping multiple women — is particularly heinous. In the second place, it is spectacularly at odds with the person we thought he was for 50 years. In the third place, it allegedly went on for so long. Half a dozen women have now come forward to accuse Cosby of sexual assault in incidents stretching from 1969 to 2004.

Yes, America is a forgiving nation. But that’s a lot to forgive.

Cosby, for what it is worth, has never been prosecuted, much less found guilty, of any of these alleged crimes, most of which were first revealed almost 10 years ago. He has long maintained his innocence, though he settled a civil suit brought by one accuser, Andrea Constand, in 2006. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

It should also be noted that the claims of another accuser — model Janice Dickinson — are contradicted by her own words. In her 2002 book, No Lifeguard on Duty, she describes her encounter with Cosby thusly: He slams a door in her face when she refuses to sleep with him. Not the height of class, but not rape, either.

On the other hand, it is difficult to ignore or explain away the fact that six women are all telling the same lurid tale.

One is left, then, with the dull, dispiriting irresolution that is so often the residue of a story you want to be untrue and fear is not. The moral of the tale, to the degree you can tease one out, is a lesson we are often taught but never seem to learn. It has to do with fame and its deceits and how readily we con ourselves into thinking we “know” some person because we saw a show or read an interview. We tend to forget that show business is, after all, the business of creating illusions.

Cosby’s fall reinforces that truism in a bruising and unforgiving fashion.

Have you ever learned something you wished you didn’t know? That’s how this story feels. You want to slam hands over ears and sing nonsense syllables until it goes away. But things don’t work like that. Ultimately, you can only struggle with your own sense of disappointment. And betrayal. And sheer, slack-jawed amazement.

Bill Cosby, serial rapist?

Wow. Just …. wow.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via email at [email protected]

AFP Photo/Stan Honda

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  • Billie

    I just think it’s odd that not one of the alleged victims ever came forward at that time. Even if the police didn’t believe the first one maybe they would have believed the second. I don’t know if he is guilty of not but if it’s true then someone should have gone to the police. It may have saved some of the others.

    • johninPCFL

      The last one sued in civil court, and when she was gathering the evidence of serial assaults (having gotten several other victims’ names), Cosby settled.
      It is unfortunate that the police were never involved. All of the data from the rape counseling centers says that most women (80%) are unwilling to go through the trauma of reliving their assault for the public (the courtroom) and most know their attacker. Maybe the threat of “you’ll never work in this town again”?

      • WhutHeSaid

        If I remember correctly the police WERE involved in that case. The prosecutor decided not to file charges even though he stated during later interviews that he felt Cosby was guilty of the acts alleged. He just didn’t believe that he could prove Cosby’s guilt in court. I believe that there was some time lapse between the incident(s) and the date that they were reported — if I remember about 1 year.

    • SteveLC

      I would demand that ALL the women who have accuse Bill Cosby to tale a Lie Detector Test and see how many women will retract their story. Also B.Cosby should have to take the test also. These women see dollar signs for CHRISTmas.

  • pmbalele

    I am sick and tired of Repubs and TPs and right wing media accusing Black males as rapists, thieves, criminals, killers, government dependents and sinners. I hope American people are not listening to those old, wrinkled and ugly TPs wives now whining they were raped. You cannot rape a woman in this country and get away with it. Just a woman reporting you of rape, even if false, will put you in really big trouble. You remember when a Black lawmaker in Wisconsin was accused of foundling a White woman in elevator. He was herded to jail the next day. It took him a year to prove he did not do it. If Cosby had raped those women they would have come out long ago and he would be in prison by now. There is no evidence now. Those sexual encounters were all consensual –not rape. But of course as a Black man, TPs and Repubs will drum up and drag this story until they tarnish Cosby reputation. You remember the case with Herman Cain when he won GOP WH straw poll? The next day Cain was accused of groping 5 White women before hiring them. That derailed Cain WH candidacy; he had to drop out. Do not listen to such trashy women. These TP women want free money. Once more I am tired of TPs and their
    women painting Black males as rapists and sinners and criminals. I hope Cosby will fight back and counter-sue them.

  • tdm3624

    Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, not the court of public opinion.

    • JPHALL

      The problem is that like the Fatty Arbuckle case in the early 1900’s, perception is often more important than fact or truth.

  • LasloPratt

    I don’t know, of course, whether these allegations are true or not. I do know that it is a fairly safe bet your favorite artists are frequently people you would not wish to know. If true, this is terrible for the women. If not true, this is terrible for Cosby. As Charles Pierce is wont to say, there is no way this turns out well.

  • Arnie Pierce

    Perhaps Cosby is guilty, I don’t know. What I do know is the Media is sure giving this a lot more play than they did when the allogations about Schwarzenegger came up when he was running for Governor. We know how things turned out for the Serial Adulterer