The famous comedian and television personality’s silence on charges of sexual assault shows a lot about Bill Cosby—and even more about our media.
Maybe it’s fated, maybe Holden Caulfield was right, maybe every older person we ever respect or revere is destined to be in reality a liar and a fraud and a monster. Maybe that’s just how it works.
I’m referring to the latest blow up in the long saga of allegations by multiple women that Bill Cosby drugged and raped them. This isn’t exactly a new news story; these sorts of allegations have been circulating in the media ether since at least 2005, but it certainly came to a head this weekend after National Public Radio’s Scott Simon asked the American Icon about the allegations. Vox’s Kelsey McKinney summed up what happened quite well:
“This question gives me no pleasure, Mr. Cosby,” Simon begins, “but there have been serious allegations against you in the last couple of days.”
Simon then notes that Cosby shakes his head no.
“There are people who love you who might want to hear from you on this. I wanted to give you the chance,” Simon continues, but Cosby refuses to respond.
Kelsey then gives us the background:
If you’re unfamiliar with the serious allegations Simon tried to discuss, Bill Cosby has been accused of raping 13 different women over the course of many years. He settled, out of court, in November 2006 with one of the women for an undisclosed amount of money. The other 12 victims did not testify at the trial. Tom Scocca at Gawker has a thorough run-down, and Matt Giles at Vulture has created a timeline of events.
It’s very important to note that Mr. Cosby has never been arrested or charged with any crime relating to these allegations. Let alone found guilty in a court of law, which in this country is what determines who is a criminal and who isn’t.Furthermore celebrities of Cosby’s stature are often the subject of false accusations, but those accusations deserve to be investigated, and their existence should not be hidden by the media.
But the awfulness, like a bad taste in your mouth, still remains. How can the ornery but lovable paterfamilias from that show, you know the one where he chides Theo and makes comments disapproving of Denise’s life choices, possibly be the person from those media reports?
I don’t know, and in fact I’d speculate that faced with such a problem, the American media decided for ten years to simply pretend it never happened. It was simply too much to address the fact that our TV dad might not be the funny guy from Jell-O ads, but might in fact be something completely different. Something truly awful.
Our media, the one that obsesses with things like Kim Kardashian’s rear end and Justin Bieber’s latest arrest, seems to feel it shouldn’t tell us about things like august figures accused of rape. Their silence, excepting a few dissenters, was in many ways deafening when it comes to media coverage of this whole saga.
The truth about the allegations against Bill Cosby is something for the courts to grapple with. But the fact is that Mr. Cosby has been accused of rape and sexual assault by multiple women, who allege these sorts of actives going back to the 1980’s, is something we can no longer ignore. But simply coming to terms with this fact isn’t enough.
The fact that women have been speaking about this since 2005 and nobody has been paying attention, at least until now, is in its own way even worse.
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