Bill Cosby and Lance Armstrong would appear to have much in common. Both worked hard in their respective fields. Both became popular figures and spokesmen for important issues: Cosby on education; Armstrong for cancer survivors. Throughout several decades, both reached a rare level of success and celebrity. And both cultivated a position of power based on that celebrity.
And now it appears, both carried a secret.
With Armstrong, it was the banned drugs that he took for decades and denied until last year. With Cosby, based on mounting allegations, it would appear he sexually assaulted a number of women over several decades.
Before I go any further, it’s important to point out that while Armstrong has admitted his guilt, Cosby has never been charged or found guilty of sexual assault.
However, on Saturday, (Nov. 22), The Washington Post reported that “Sixteen women have publicly stated that Cosby… sexually assaulted them, with 12 saying he drugged them first and another saying he tried to drug her. The Washington Post has interviewed five of those women, including a former Playboy Playmate who has never spoken publicly about her allegations. The women agreed to speak on the record and to have their identities revealed.”
Cosby’s attorney, Martin Singer, put out a statement to the media on Friday (Nov. 21) in response:
“The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40, or even 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity,” Mr. Singer said. “These brand new claims about alleged decades-old events are becoming increasingly ridiculous, and it is completely illogical 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.
“Lawsuits are filed against people in the public eye every day. There has never been a shortage of lawyers willing to represent people with claims against rich, powerful men, so it makes no sense that not one of these new women who just came forward for the first time now ever asserted a legal claim back at the time they allege they had been sexually assaulted.
“This situation is an unprecedented example of the media’s breakneck rush to run stories without any corroboration or adherence to traditional journalistic standards. Over and over again, we have refuted these new unsubstantiated stories with documentary evidence, only to have a new uncorroborated story crop up out of the woodwork. When will it end? It is long past time for this media vilification of Mr. Cosby to stop.”
As a matter of fairness, he has a point. Too many times, the media has picked-up allegations and played them up for the sake of gaining “eyeballs” on a story.
But this time is different.
Cosby is now facing allegations from sixteen women. What could these women possibly gain in making false statements, media attention? Who would want to put themselves through that kind of attention? Money? I haven’t read where any of these women have filed suit against Cosby, most notably because the statute of limitations has run out on all of them.
As more women have come forward, a public backlash has resulted in NBC canceling plans for another Cosby show, and TV Land has dropped reruns of The Cosby Show.
“During an interview last Friday, Cosby said: ‘I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn’t have to answer to innuendos. People should fact-check. People shouldn’t have to go through that and shouldn’t answer to innuendos.’ ”
When you have allegations brought by sixteen individuals with stories that appear to be credible, we are well past the “innuendo” stage. An innuendo is a hint, a suggestion, insinuation. An allegation is a claim, an accusation, a charge, and these women are alleging sexual assault.
So, should Bill Cosby make a public statement about his guilt or innocence?
On Friday, (Nov. 20) CBS This Morning interviewed Frank Luntz, a pollster and expert in crisis communications. As of Friday, only six women had come forward publicly. Here’s what Luntz had to say:
“Reporters don’t want to challenge Bill Cosby because of what he represents to America… but when you have six people, six women; there’s a rule in communication: one example is random; two examples is a trend; once you get three, that’s pretty factual to the ears of the average American. And Cosby’s response, that non-response, once you have three people, you’re going to be expected to say a lot more.”
Asked if Cosby needs to address the issue, publicly, Luntz said, “He needs to do an interview. And this whole thing is tragic for Bill Cosby not to answer these allegations, and if they are true, for him not to acknowledge that in his life mistakes were made, is a tragedy because he then loses his credibility that he will never get back in his remaining career.”
I’ve always been a fan of Bill Cosby, from his comedy albums to I Spy, and I dislike anyone in the public eye to be accused or ridiculed. But it is precisely because Bill Cosby has been in the hearts and minds of Americans for decades that he needs to sit down with a respected interviewer and answer these charges.
In the case of Lance Armstrong, Armstrong says, he never believed he was ever going to be caught, until he was. In Bill Cosby’s case, he needs to come forward and tell the truth, now. He owes to his fans.