Another icon of American culture turns out to be not just an idol with feet of clay, but something of a monster.
Actor Bill Cosby of clean stand-up comedian jokes and 8 years of playing an idealized black man — obstetrician Dr. Cliff Huxtable and wise father of 5 — in The Cosby Show, has been unmasked by one woman after another as a serial rapist.
Manuel Roig-Franzia, Scott Higham, Paul Farhi and Mary Pat Flaherty report for The Washington Post, Nov. 22, 2014, that 16 women have now come forth to publicly accuse Cosby, 77, of having sexually assaulted them. 12 of the 16 say he drugged them first; while one woman said he tried to drug her.
The Washington Post has interviewed 5 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. The Post also has reviewed court records that shed light on the accusations of a former director of women’s basketball operations at Temple University who assembled 13 “Jane Doe” accusers in 2005 to testify on her behalf about their allegations against Cosby.
The accusations, some of which Cosby has denied and others he has declined to discuss, span the arc of the famous comedian’s career, from his pioneering years as the first black star of a network television drama in 1965 to the mid-2000s, when Cosby was firmly entrenched as an elder statesman of the entertainment industry, a scolding public conscience of the African American community and a philanthropist.
The saga of the abuse allegations is set in locales that speak to Cosby’s wealth and fame: a Hollywood-studio bungalow, a chauffeured limousine, luxury hotels, a New York City brownstone, and a Denver talent agency that referred two of Cosby’s future accusers to the star for mentoring.
The allegations are strung together by perceptible patterns that appear and reappear with remarkable consistency:
- Mostly young, white women without family nearby.
- Drugs offered as palliatives.
- Resistance (by the women) and pursuit (by Cosby).
- Accusers worrying that no one would believe them.
- The victims’ lifelong trauma.
- Cosby’s team of attorneys and publicists using the media and the courts to attack the credibility of his accusers, the latest being Martin Singer, an attorney for Cosby, who issued a statement on Friday calling the rape accusations “unsubstantiated, fantastical stories” “past the point of absurdity” and “increasingly ridiculous” against a “rich, powerful” man.
During an interview on Friday with Florida Today, 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.”
If his accusers are to be believed, the earliest allegations against Cosby remained hidden for decades, artifacts of an era when women were less likely to publicly accuse men they knew of sexual misdeeds and society was less likely to believe them.
But the accusations have flared periodically throughout the past nine years, both because of changing attitudes and, particularly over the past month, because of social media’s ability to transform a story into a viral phenomenon almost impossible to suppress or control.
The allegations represent a stunning reshaping of Cosby’s legacy. Cosby built his fame on a family-friendly comedic persona. He has lectured black youths about proper behavior. He has been honored with a Presidential Medal of Freedom and been lauded for making the largest donation ever by an African American to a historically black college, Spelman College in Atlanta.
Since the avalanche of accusations this month, there has been mostly thundering silence from his longtime allies, with only a few exceptions like Weldon Latham, a prominent Washington attorney and Cosby friend. Even the producers of the 1980s sitcom “The Cosby Show” that made Cosby famous as a family man, Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner, issued a brief but guarded statement: “These recent news reports are beyond our knowledge or comprehension.”
Cosby was on the verge of what appeared to be a comeback this year, but projects scheduled for NBC and Netflix are now postponed or canceled in the fallout. Several of Cosby’s upcoming comedy shows also have been canceled. Nevertheless, in the spirit of amoral racism — the same amoral loyalty given O.J. Simpson — whereby blacks rally to support a fellow black, regardless of right or wrong, the sold-out crowd for Cosby’s one-man show at Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne, Fla. on Friday night gave the accused rapist a standing ovation.
Cosby’s accusers include:
66-year old Joan Tarshis, who says when she was a 19-year-old comedy writer in 1969, Cosby spiked her drink, tried to take her underwear off, then forced her to give him oral sex. A few weeks later, he raped her in his hotel room.
63-year-old Linda Traitz, who in 1969 worked as a star-struck waitress in Cafe Figaro, a restaurant co-owned by Cosby in West Hollywood. Traitz says Cosby drove her to the beach in his Rolls Royce, offered her “pills” from a briefcase of assorted drugs to relax, then lunged at her, grabbing her chest. Traitz broke free and tumbled out of the car. Cosby took her home and “froze” her out. Traitz neither told her co-workers and her family what happened, nor reported the attempted rape to the police, because “this was a really big guy with a big PR operation and lawyers” who could and would “crush” her.
71-year-old Victoria Valentino, who was Playboy magazine’s Playmate of the Month for September 1963 when she was just 19. In January 1970, Valentino was introduced to Cosby at Cafe Figaro. Valentino says Cosby took her and her friend and roommate at the time, an aspiring actress named Meg Foster, to dinner. He offered them “red pills” “to make all of us feel better.” Cosby then drove the two women to an apartment in the hills above the Chateau Marmont hotel. Meg Foster passed out, but Cosby forced Valentino to perform oral sex on him, then raped her. Like Traitz, Valentino also did not go to the police. She explains, “What kind of credibility did I have? In those days, it was always the rape victim who wound up being victimized.”
But Valentino did tell Francesca Emerson, a fellow Playboy bunny and one of the first “chocolate Bunnies” of the 1960s, who had introduced Valentino to Cosby. Emerson, who now lives in Australia, has confirmed Valentino’s recollection in an interview with The Washington Post.
Barbara Bowman, who says Bill Cosby sexually assaulted her “multiple times” when she was a 17-year-old aspiring actress in 1985. Read her first-person account in The Washington Post, “Bill Cosby raped me. Why did it take 30 years for people to believe my story?,” Nov. 13, 2014.
See also DCG’s “Bill Cosby on the bandwagon to limit your Second Amendment rights.”