The revived allegations against Bill Cosby have so far produced a civil lawsuit—from Judy Huth, who claims Cosby molested her when she was 15 years old—and a motion to dismiss that suit and demand $33,295 in sanctions from Huth, filed by Cosby’s lawyer. It’s also produced an official LAPD investigation into Huth’s accusations, in which police will attempt to sift through 40 years’ worth of distant memories and sticky sediment at the Playboy Mansion—though many seem to agree that bringing Cosby to trial on any decades-old allegation will be difficult. (It’s why Gloria Allred proposed an alternate, “just own up and pay everybody” salvo that is even now being taught in the nation’s finest law schools.) But one of his alleged victims has found another tack to try to force Cosby into court: suing him for denying her story.
Cosby has been hit with a defamation suit from Tamara Green, a now-retired attorney who first came forward in 2005 with allegations that Cosby had assaulted her in the 1970s, joining Andrea Costrand’s lawsuit against him, and even participating in an interview that year with a skeptical Matt Lauer on Today. Green’s name surfaced again this past February—many months before these allegations really picked up steam—in a Newsweek interview in which she described the incident and the professional, “career-ender” fallout she experienced after she shared her story.
And now Green is suing for a comment that Newsweek interview carried from Cosby’s publicist calling her allegation “discredited” and “nothing.” She also cites a comment made by his lawyer in a recent Washington Post article that flat-out says Cosby didn’t know Green “and the incident she describes did not happen.”
As a result, Green says that Cosby’s team has “publicly branded” her as a liar, exposing her to “contempt, ridicule, aversion or disgrace” and created an “evil opinion of her in the minds of right-thinking persons,” as well as caused her to be “shunned and avoided” in both her professional and personal dealings. As The Hollywood Reporter notes, it remains to be seen whether a judge will agree that those denials actually amount to Cosby’s reps calling her a liar—or if they do, whether Cosby himself is responsible for them. But it does give some indication of a legal reason why, for all the damage his silence is doing to his public image, Cosby has so steadfastly refused to say anything about the allegations. Though, of course, it’s becoming hard to imagine how he could possibly make this situation worse.
Attesting to that, those allegations have only grown in both size and volume this week, with many of Cosby’s accusers forming ranks to share their stories on TV. Most notably, five of them appeared together for an hour-long CNN special, in which Don Lemon (visibly restraining the urge to suggest more rape-avoidance strategies) and his co-host/handler Alisyn Camerota asked them about their shared experiences. At one point, in what has become one of the defining images of this story, the women were asked how many had been drugged by Bill Cosby. All five raised their hands.
One of them—P.J. Masten, a former “bunny manager” at a Chicago-area Playboy Club in the 1970s—also told CNN that Cosby’s history of rape in and around the Playboy empire goes much deeper than Huth’s allegation, claiming there are at least “12 former bunnies that I know of” that Cosby assaulted, all of them afraid and ashamed to come forward. Masten’s story has already been joined by the previously reported account of Carla Ferrigno, who was a Playboy Bunny when Cosby tried to force himself on her, and Victoria Valentino, another Playboy Bunny who says Cosby drugged and raped her in the late 1960s, but was afraid that her being a Playmate would cast doubt on her credibility if she came forward.
As for Masten, she tells CNN she immediately alerted her supervisor at the Playboy Club as to what had happened, only to be told something similar:
She said to me, ‘You know that’s Hef’s best friend, right?’” Masten recounted, referring to Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. “I said, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘Well, nobody is going to believe you. I suggest you keep your mouth shut.’”
Amid their allegations, as well as that aforementioned LAPD investigation into the Playboy Mansion, Hugh Hefner issued a statement in which he offered general support for Cosby—while also carefully distancing himself. “Bill Cosby has been a good friend for many years and the mere thought of these allegations is truly saddening. I would never tolerate this kind of behavior, regardless of who was involved,” it reads, so that settles that.
Here’s but one of many photos of Bill Cosby and Hugh Hefner hanging out. Presumably this one was taken right before they got on their spaceship to blast away from all this.
Meanwhile, over on Nancy Grace, Janice Dickinson—who has lately become more and more emboldened in her longstanding accusations against Cosby—screamed her way through an enraged interview in which she, at one point, yelled, “Fuck you, Bill Cosby!” She also started the interview by declaring, “I can’t breathe because of Bill Cosby,” an attempt to link her story to the Eric Garner protests that everyone would appreciate if she didn’t try again.
As impossible as it seems, Dickinson’s interview may soon have some competition in terms of theatricality: Philadelphia Magazine writer Victor Fiorillo has launched a Kickstarter asking for public backers on The Bill Cosby Assault, a play exploring the controversy in a means yet to be determined—but which Fiorillo tells The Guardian “won’t be just a stool on the stage where actresses recount the women’s allegations against Cosby.” Nevertheless, given that he’s received just $400 of his (astronomical) $10,000 goal, that stool-on-a-stage plan probably doesn’t sound so bad now.
In fact, it’s something the Des Moines Civic Center might consider, now that it’s become the latest venue to “postpone indefinitely” a scheduled Cosby show on March 7. As of now, Cosby still has appearances slated for a run of dates in 2015, beginning with several in Ontario, where Canadian politeness and the desire not to embarrass anyone by mentioning this unfortunate business could give Cosby at least one safe haven. And if not, perhaps the venue could consider booking a stool on an empty stage. Nobody’s going to accuse the stool of anything.