Archive for the ‘Rape’ Category
Don Lemon’s special, “The Cosby Show: A Legend Under Fire,” airs on CNN tonight at 9 ET.
(CNN) — It’s as if the other Bill Cosby never existed.
You remember the other Bill Cosby. For a long time, he was the only Bill Cosby.
He was a groundbreaking comedian, famed for his shaggy-dog storytelling on routines such as “Noah” and “To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With.” He worked clean, even when other comedians went blue.
He was “television’s Jackie Robinson,” the first African-American to star in a dramatic role on TV, and he earned three Emmys for his work on “I Spy,” the series on which he broke the barrier.
Cosby accuser: ‘I want him to suffer’
He was a promoter of education and values through “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” (“if you’re not careful, you may learn something”) and his philanthropy. He was an amusing, trusted pitchman, known for Jell-O and Coca-Cola commercials. He was a beloved TV father, the patriarch of “The Cosby Show.”
He was wealthy; he was generous; he was admired.
Who is Bill Cosby now?
In recent weeks, the news has provided a steady drip-drip-drip of rape accusations against the 77-year-old comedian. At least 20 women have spoken out to various media outlets, accusing Cosby of sexual misconduct. Many of the accusations date back decades.
Bill Cosby facing litany of allegations
Cosby has lost concert bookings and had a proposed NBC show scuttled and a concert movie premiere postponed. TV Land yanked the “Cosby Show” reruns from its lineup. He’s cut ties with his beloved Temple University, where he served on the board. His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was defaced. Even the Navy revoked an honorary title granted Cosby in 2011.
It should be noted that Cosby has never faced a judge or jury, let alone been convicted, over the allegations. His camp has repeatedly and vigorously denied them.
It defies common sense that “so many people would have said nothing, done nothing, and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years,” said Cosby’s attorney, Martin D. Singer, in a written statement sent to CNN.
But it’s clear that many people have already tried Cosby in their minds.
“The court of public opinion has cost him all of his projects,” said Michael Bilello, who heads Centurion Strategies, a PR and crisis-management shop. “His inactions, his mishandling of PR, his legal maneuvering — those are characteristics you do not want to display, especially when you’re accused of rape.”
The suddenness of Cosby’s tumble reminds Bilello of the downfall of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. For 50 years, Paterno was venerated as “Joe Pa,” a figure of such rectitude and honor that the college built a monument to him. Then, as the sexual abuse charges against his former assistant Jerry Sandusky accumulated, Paterno was accused of a cover-up and fired. He died two months later. His statue was later removed from campus.
“Cosby’s looking at the same sentence,” Bilello said. “He’s looking at this overshadowing everything he’s done simply because there is guilt by assumption.”
‘This story keeps just getting told’
Cosby is far from the first celebrity to be lowered, fairly or unfairly, from his pedestal.
In the 1920s, silent film star Fatty Arbuckle — one of the most influential comedians of his day, a mentor to Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton — was accused of rape and manslaughter in the case of an actress, Virginia Rappe, who had attended a party for Arbuckle.
The case was tried three times. The first two trials ended in hung juries. Arbuckle, then 35, was acquitted in the third — the jury even gave him a written apology — but the damage was done: His reputation was shattered, his films were temporarily banned, and he had to take a pseudonym to find work. He died while attempting a comeback in the early ’30s.
More recently, there is the case of Michael Jackson. In 2003, the singer was accused of child molestation, conspiracy and alcohol charges. Eighteen months later, a jury exonerated him. However, despite the court’s decision, allegations of sexual abuse followed Jackson right up to his death in 2009.
What makes the Cosby situation even more challenging is that there has been no day in court, says Syracuse popular culture professor Robert Thompson.
“There was a trial (in Michael Jackson’s case). Evidence was presented; process was gone through,” he said. “Here, this story keeps just getting told, and it keeps getting told with very little new information.”
In addition, Cosby is more than an entertainer, Thompson observes. He’s also been an educator and a moralist, using his fame to promote schooling and propriety.
In that respect, says Thompson, the fall of Cosby can be compared to that of evangelists Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker, who were brought down by scandals in the late 1980s. Swaggart was defrocked by his denomination; Bakker was convicted of fraud and served time. Though both resumed ministries, neither has the power or following they did 30 years ago.
‘What do you say?’
However, those events all predated the social media age, which has kept Cosby’s situation on the front page when it conceivably could have vanished down the memory hole. A handful of accusers first went public almost 10 years ago, in 2005, after Cosby was named by a Temple University staffer, Andrea Constand, in a civil suit.
But it was a viral video by comedian Hannibal Buress that brought the Cosby story out of the shadows, and it was an attempt at creating memes — proposed by Cosby’s own Twitter account — that made it widespread.
It’s shaken up many who normally would be defending a man who they greatly respect. In fact, with a handful of exceptions — notably Jill Scott and Ben Vereen — Cosby has received little support among entertainers, though many of them are reserving judgment.
“I don’t know what to say. What do you say? I hope it’s not true. That’s all you can say. I really do,” Chris Rock told New York magazine. “I grew up on Cosby. I love Cosby, and I just hope it’s not true. It’s a weird year for comedy. We lost Robin (Williams), we lost Joan (Rivers), and we kind of lost Cosby.”
Cedric the Entertainer agreed. In an “Entertainment Tonight” interview on the red carpet for Rock’s movie “Top Five,” he expressed both admiration and sadness.
“We all grew up on him, and we know and respect him, not just as a comedian but for the things that he’s done outside of comedy, with the colleges and giving back (to the community) and spending his money where his mouth is,” he said. “But if the allegations have any truth to them, you want the truth to come out. You want justification for all the people. That’s all you can really say. It’s an unfortunate scenario.”
Jerry Seinfeld was brief.
“It’s sad and incomprehensible,” he said.
At least one comedy celebrity has become notably anti-Cosby. Judd Apatow, the writer and director of such films as “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” attacked Cosby on his Twitter feed.
“I have numerous personal connections to this situation and the victims. I think he is a coward and clearly a sociopath,” Apatow wrote November 26.
It’s shaken up some journalists too, prompting many to offer mea culpas for not asking Cosby about the allegations.
Author Mark Whitaker, a former CNN managing editor who wrote a recent biography of Cosby, apologized for not including the accusations in his book. Ta-Nehisi Coates, who wrote a long piece grappling with Cosby’s conservatism in 2008, recently wrote that he should have included more than “a brief and limp mention” of the allegations. And The New York Times’ David Carr wrote that he should have asked Cosby about the accusations when interviewing him for an in-flight magazine.
Carr believes there’s no repairing the damage to Cosby’s reputation.
“For decades, entertainers have been able to maintain custody of their image, regardless of their conduct,” he concluded. “Those days are history. It doesn’t really matter now what the courts or the press do or decide. When enough evidence and pushback rears into view, a new apparatus takes over, one that is viral, relentless and not going to forgive or forget.”
‘He has to engage the public’
Is there any way for Cosby to restore his name?
Except for a short exchange with a South Florida publication, he has been silent on the matter — literally so, in the case of a response to NPR’s Scott Simon.
Bilello believes that Cosby is beyond the standard media apology tour, usually capped by a visit to Oprah Winfrey’s couch. Cosby has been hurt by social media, he says, and only social media will save him.
“If he wants to have his final chapter written the way he wants to be recalled, he has to engage the public,” he said. “Perhaps something social media-based, an open forum for maybe two hours, taking all questions — and having a moderator who’s not a celebrity.” A Reddit AMA, say, or a live chat.
On the other hand, 15 Minutes Public Relations’ Howard Bragman says Cosby should just stay quiet.
“He should shut the f*** up!” Bragman told TheWrap. “He should have his lawyers shut the f*** up and his PR people shut the f*** up.”
Cosby does run the risk of becoming a sad punchline, says Thompson. He’s seen it happen. When he shows “Roots” in his television history classes, his students burst out laughing when O.J. Simpson enters the picture.
“The entire mode of the show can’t proceed,” he said. “O.J. completely trumps everything else that’s been happening in the episode.”
Either way, says Thompson, Cosby is already fading into history. His college students know the comedian as “a grumpy guy” more familiar from parodies than from his actual work. After all, Dr. Cliff Huxtable, the fatherly Cosby of “The Cosby Show,” left the air in 1992 — more than two decades ago.
“Talk to a 20-year-old (about Cosby), and they think, ‘Oh, that’s really creepy, that old guy was hitting on women,’ but they don’t feel about Cliff Huxtable the way people a little older do,” he says.
Cosby doesn’t have to do anything, of course. For civil claims, the statute of limitations has expired for many of the claims about him, though it varies from state to state, observes Cornell law professor Cynthia G. Bowman. The statute of limitations also varies widely for criminal claims, she adds, but it would be “extremely difficult to reconstruct events,” never mind prove anything so many decades later.
Cosby also remains one of America’s wealthiest entertainers. He can return quietly to private life and enjoy the rest of his days in seclusion, if that’s what he desires. He has about two dozen concert appearances still scheduled, but after a May date in Atlanta, there’s nothing on his calendar.
Still, without a final word, Cosby goes from perceived hero to Greek-level tragedy. His circumstance brings to mind “The Natural’s” Roy Hobbs, the exalted fictional baseball star who, in Bernard Malamud’s novel, is left in ruins.
As the book ends, Hobbs buys a newspaper and reads of his demise.
“And there was also a statement by the baseball commissioner. ‘If this alleged report is true, that is the last of Roy Hobbs in organized baseball. He will be excluded from the game and all his records forever destroyed.’
“Roy handed the paper back to the kid.
” ‘Say it ain’t true, Roy.’
“When Roy looked into the boy’s eyes he wanted to say it wasn’t but couldn’t, and he lifted his hands to his face and wept many bitter tears.”
Therese Serignese accuses the comedian of sexually assaulting her in 1976
Another woman has come forward accusing Bill Cosby of sexual assault.
Therese Serignese has told multiple media outlets the iconic comedian drugged her and then raped her back in 1976, when she was just 19. The registered nurse is one of several women who have recently accused Cosby of assault.
“The next memory I have was I was in a bathroom and I was kind of bending forward and he was behind me having sex with me,” she told the HuffingtonPost on Thursday. “I was just there, thinking ‘I’m on drugs, I’m drugged.’ I felt drugged and I was being raped and it was kind of surreal. My frame of mind was that it would be over soon and I could just get out of there.”
Serignese said she told her mother about being raped and drugged, but she says her mom advised her to reach back out to Cosby. She followed her mother’s advice, contacted the comedian and he put her up in the penthouse of a nearby Hilton hotel for about three weeks. Serignese claims all that changed when she had a pregnancy scare, which led to Cosby kicking her out.
She claims the two of them kept in touch for over 20 years, which included another sexual encounter around 1985.
Also read: Bill Cosby Scandal: What Took So Long For Us to Notice?
“I just tried to forget it. I tried to block it out,” she said. “It doesn’t go away but you can make it silent. You can bury it. But all of these times when this stuff comes up, it does make me angry.”
Former actress, publicist and journalist Joan Tarshis also recently came forward with allegations of sexual assault at the hands of the television icon. She too was 19 when the crimes allegedly took place.
She told TheWrap she was speaking out now in part because she wanted “to help the public understand that he’s not Mr. Clean,” and also “because of the other women who were courageous enough before me to venture out and say what was going on.”
Also read: ‘The View’s’ Rosie O’Donnell vs. All of Her Co-Hosts Over Bill Cosby Rape Allegations (Video)
This follows alleged victim Barbara Bowman’s Washington Post essay asking why it took a viral video from comedian Hannibal Buress about this issue for it to resonate with the public.
Cosby had projects in the works with Netflix and NBC when the first of these allegations resurfaced, but both have now been canceled. Reruns of “The Cosby Show” have also been pulled from TV Land’s programming lineup.
Cosby was recently interviewed by both NPR and the Associated Press, but he side-stepped questions regarding allegations of rape, drugging women, and sexual assault.
Also read: Bill Cosby’s Lawyer Slams Janice Dickinson Again for Telling ‘Fabricated Lie’
Serignese shared her story on camera Wednesday with CBS Miami affiliate, WFOR-TV.
Emma Sulkowicz, a visual arts major at Columbia University, is carrying around her dorm mattress until her rapist is removed from campus. Sulkowicz says she was raped in her dorm room bed when she was a sophomore, and as her senior thesis project, she’s embarking on a performance arts piece that requires her to tote her mattress everywhere she goes. But she doesn’t have to do it alone.
Under the terms of Sulkowicz’s thesis — entitled Carry That Weight or Mattress Performance — she’s not allowed to ask for help carrying her mattress. She is allowed to accept help if other people offer on their own, however, and that inspired her fellow students to get organized so they can assist Sulkowicz in a meaningful way.
“Carrying The Weight Together,” a group founded by another senior at Columbia, is organizing “collective carries” to ensure that the community will work together to help bear the weight of Sulkowicz’s symbolic burden. They’re committing to helping carry the mattress every day.
According to Allie Rickard, the student who initiated Carrying The Weight Together, the goals are to “help Emma carry the weight of the physical mattress, give her and other survivors of sexual assault in our community a powerful symbol of our support and solidarity, and show the administration that we stand united in demanding better policies designed to guarantee our safety and wellbeing on campus.”
As reported by the Columbia Spectator, the first collective carry was on Wednesday afternoon, when a group of students helped Sukowicz carry her mattress across campus so she could more easily get to class. “As students, I like the fact that we can step up and share the weight with her — that she doesn’t have to do this all alone,” one of the people who participated told the student newspaper. The group is working to organize future carries with the help of Columbia and Barnard staff, faculty, and students.
Students are also rallying support with the #CarryThatWeight hashtag, which has inspired additional actions of solidarity with Sukowicz and her project at other schools.
Sexual assault prevention activists are organizing a rally on Columbia’s campus for Friday afternoon to continue to push for meaningful policy reform in this area. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own mattresses to the event as a symbol of solidarity with Sukowicz and all survivors of sexual violence.
There are often calls to “stand with” survivors after revelations of the crimes committed against them — but more recently, there’s been a larger conversation about how to do even more to actively support victims of oppression and violence. That’s where the concept of “carrying” comes in. For instance, earlier this summer, when images of 16-year-old Jada’s rape went viral online and the teen fought to reclaim her agency, writer Stacia L. Brown argued that solidarity isn’t enough. “I am often of the mind that girls who’ve gone through what Jada has don’t need us to stand with them. They need to be swept off their feet, hoisted onto our backs or shoulders, and carried,” Brown wrote.
Carrying mattress helps evoke that more concrete action, and Columbia students aren’t stopping there. Activists have a list of specific demands — including implementing ongoing consent education, hiring a more impartial employee to oversee the adjudication process, and providing more formal channels for students to provide feedback about their experiences reporting sexual assault — they’re asking administrators to agree to. According to a press release sent to ThinkProgress, “Student organizers plan to escalate their actions if administrators continue to ignore their demands for a safer campus.”