Though Bill Cosby has already been the target of numerous public allegations of sexual assault—including the civil lawsuit filed Tuesday by a woman who claims Cosby molested her when she was 15 years old—his problems have now officially reached the “Gloria Allred” phase. The attorney, lured once more to the flame of controversy and klieg lights, presided over a press conference yesterday in which three women shared their tales of abuse for the cameras. Among them: Beth Ferrier, a former Jane Doe from Andrea Constand’s 2005 lawsuit, and the subject of the National Enquirer article Cosby admitted to having killed; Helen Hayes (not the late actress, obviously), who says Cosby followed and groped her at Clint Eastwood’s Celebrity Tennis Tournament; and a former aspiring model identified only as “Chelan.”
By now, of course, you don’t have to read Ferrier and Chelan’s account to know the specific details: promises of career advancement made to starstruck young girls, doped beverages, waking to find that they’d been taken advantage of (and in Chelan’s case, to Cosby clapping his hands and exclaiming, “Daddy says wake up!”). But their stories, besides adding to the litany of terrible things, could have some genuine consequences this time, if Allred has her way.
She issued a call for settlements from Cosby, similar to what the Catholic Church paid out after numerous allegations of sexual abuse by priests went public, to be placed in a $100 million fund and doled out by a panel of retired judges as victims come forward to present their claim. A lengthy process that, given the way the past few weeks have only produced more and more accusers, could eventually become its own branch of the federal court system.
Alternatively, Allred proposed that Cosby waive the statute of limitations and confront all of his accusers collectively, where he can hear their stories and present his defense. “If Mr. Cosby believes all the women are being untruthful, then this is his opportunity to prove it,” she said.
Of course, Cosby has been given that opportunity several times over, and he’s refused it each time. However, just as these latest accusations were being made, he did break his silence—to thank Whoopi Goldberg and singer Jill Scott for coming to his defense.
Goldberg—who previously argued that what Roman Polanski did “wasn’t rape rape”—was one of the first to stand up for Cosby during a November episode of The View, when she said she had questions for accuser Barbara Bowman, such as, “Don’t you do a kit when you say someone has raped you?”
For her part, Scott entered the fray on Twitter after she was asked to sign a petition asking Temple University to sever ties with Cosby (which it did this week). Over the course of dozens of tweets, Scott spent much of the days between Nov. 24 and Dec. 1 arguing with followers over why Cosby doesn’t deserve condemnation without proof. (In short: because she knows him, he’s done a lot for “the greater good,” and some people also lied about her once in high school.)
Meanwhile, others with their own tangential relationships to Cosby have been slightly more measured in their responses when asked about his situation. The scandal somehow became a go-to red carpet question at the New York premiere of Chris Rock’s Top Five, where Jerry Seinfeld told Entertainment Tonight, “It’s sad and incomprehensible,” and answered the same question for People, saying, “I was very upset, very upset. Still upset. I don’t know what to make of it, but it’s just upsetting.” Again talking to ET, Cedric The Entertainer said, “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.”
And while Rock didn’t weigh in at the premiere, he did comment on the situation in his recent Vulture profile, where he echoed those sentiments. “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. I grew up on Cosby. I love Cosby, and I just hope it’s not true.” And now we can officially stop asking these people who had nothing to do with it.
Those who did have some professional affiliation with Cosby at the time, however loose, have also been forced to answer for the controversy in recent days—most notably NBC executives, who were asked whether anyone at the network was aware of claims made by the likes of Frank Scotti, who said he would stand guard outside Cosby’s dressing room and help him pay off his alleged victims. As The Hollywood Reporter notes, many among the top NBC brass during The Cosby Show’s run, such as Brandon Tartikoff, are dead now, but others have issued statements denying any knowledge of any misdeeds.
“At no time during my tenure at NBC did anyone come to me with any issues of misconduct by Bill Cosby,” said former NBC chief Warren Littlefield. His statement was backed by another from Cosby Show producers Tom Werner and Marcy Carsey, who also said the reports about Cosby are “are beyond our knowledge or comprehension.” Their fellow producer Caryn Mandabach also told THR, “I know of no one who could corroborate Frank Scotti’s comments.”
On this morning’s Today, Debbie Allen—an actress who appeared on both The Cosby Show and A Different World, and who is the sister of Cosby’s on-screen wife, Phylicia Rashad—prevaricated on the topic for a while, but eventually admitted that, given the circumstances, “it must be looked at.”
But at present, despite this week’s filing of the civil suit by Judy Huth, no one is “looking at” Cosby—at least, not in an official way. The LAPD tells The Wrap that no one is investigating Huth’s case, or anyone else’s, because no criminal complaints have been filed. And given the statute of limitations, it’s unlikely they ever will be.
As of the writing of this, today’s now-obligatory Bill Cosby article, the only Cosby-related scrutiny is that being placed on a pair of Washington D.C. institutions: the Smithsonian Museum of African Art, where Cosby recently promoted his new exhibit while dismissing the accusations; and Ben’s Chili Bowl, which has a mural depicting the face of the comedian and loyal customer, and a sign proclaiming that he can get his chili dogs for free (no plying them with beverages required).
While both the Smithsonian and the Chili Bowl declared that it was “premature” to discuss making any changes, another, more assertive decision was made near those hallowed halls of government: The U.S. Navy announced it has revoked Cosby’s honorary title of Chief Petty Officer, bestowed upon the Navy veteran in 2011, saying in a statement, “The Navy is taking this action because allegations against Mr. Cosby are very serious and are in conflict with the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment.” And with that, they averted their eyes back to the sea.
Meanwhile, New York will also be doing its own not looking at Bill Cosby: The Tarrytown Music Hall announced that Cosby had canceled his two shows scheduled for this weekend, after more than one-third of ticket holders took advantage of offers for a refund. The show is now postponed to “a later date,” when a hypothetical someone will be ready to look at Bill Cosby.