By Stacy M. Brown (The Washington Informer/NNPA Member)
The arguments go back and forth.
Detractors of comedian Bill Cosby say he made his bed and should suffer the consequences.
Supporters argue that greed, extortion and a campaign to distort his legacy, by alleged racists, have destroyed Cosby’s career.
At the center of the controversy are the dozens of accusers; some of the women, who sued Cosby and his legal team for defamation, as the comedian defended himself publicly, lost those lawsuits.
The extortion, his supporters say, comes courtesy of Gloria Allred, a celebrity attorney who, in 2014, called on Cosby to put $100 million in a fund for the alleged victims and to let a panel of retired judges determine the truth about their claims, many of which allegedly happened in the 1960s and 1970s.
And claims of racism have mostly been directed at Hollywood and its tolerance for individuals like Roman Polanski and Woody Allen and Judd Apatow, who has been vocal in his condemnation of Cosby, even calling the “I-Spy” star “one of the most awful people you’ve ever heard of.”
Terri Fletcher, a retired nurse who lives in Pennsylvania where Cosby will stand trial in June, said that Apatow has shown himself to be a misogynistic racist.”
As the co-executive producer of HBO’s hit show “Girls,” Apatow, for years, ducked questions about the whitewashing of the New York City portrayed in the comedy.
Tanisha Jones, a New York fashion designer who works in the entertainment industry, called the allegations against Cosby, “an absolute intentional murder of his legacy.”
Jones, 28, added that she feels for any woman who has been raped, assaulted or demeaned in any way.
“But, realistically, we have not seen evidence that any of this is true, yet we can’t watch his shows, which all have been groundbreaking and a boost and an encouragement to Black people,” said Jones. “Yet, what we do see are other comedians going against Cosby with venom and attorneys like Ms. Allred asking Mr. Cosby for $100 million in what I think is nothing more than a shakedown.”
Allred has denied those claims. She told NBC that she thinks Cosby’s NNPA Newswire interview was an attempt to influence the jury pool.
“I expect Mr. Cosby and members of his family to continue to speak out in an attempt to portray him as a victim rather than as an alleged sexual predator,” Allred said.
Dr. Carolyn M. Byerly, a professor and chair of the Department of Communications, Culture and Media Studies at Howard University’s School of Communications, offered her perspective.
Cosby’s early work clearly broke ground and should, of course, continue to be recognized, she said.
However, the “deeply significant events of what appears to be his later life behavior, cannot be dismissed or trivialized,” Byerly said. “We do not know where things went wrong for Bill Cosby, but we have to listen to women who have broken silence, often with great emotional difficulty.”
Whether a jury finds Cosby guilty or not doesn’t matter, because he’s admitted in a deposition to sexual activity and the use of drugs, said Robert C. Smith, professor of political science at San Francisco State University.
Smith continued: “Although, it’s unfortunate Cosby’s co-stars have lost income, because no one will air his shows, his punishment is fitting, because it sends an unmistakable message that the sexual abuse of women will not be tolerated, no matter the man’s status, legacy or otherwise praiseworthy endeavors.”
After Cosby and his daughter, Evin, spoke out, others voiced support for the superstar.
“It’s a sad day in America when one has been proclaimed guilty long, before the start of a trial,” said Rev. Kenneth James Flowers, the pastor of the Greater New Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, Mich. “But, African-Americans have always been treated unfairly and disproportionately treated as guilty.”
Flowers continued: “If Mr. Cosby is found guilty, he must suffer whatever ramifications and punishment due him, but until then, let his shows continue to run and bring laughter to the world.”
In November 2014, “the nostalgia-oriented cable network TV Land removed ‘The Cosby Show’ from its lineup. The move capped a devastating week for Bill Cosby’s late-career comeback, with new sexual assault allegations prompting Netflix to shelve an upcoming Cosby stand-up comedy special and NBC officially pulling the plug on a high-profile Cosby prime time sitcom,” according to TheWeek.com.
In July 2015, Quartz.com reported that BET’s Centric network stopped airing re-runs of “The Cosby Show,” after more than two dozen women said that Cosby drugged and raped them.
Late last year, Bounce TV announced that it would end the ban on airing reruns of “The Cosby Show,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Fletcher, 55, also lamented the absence of “The Cosby Show” and other Cosby-related productions.
“They air movies by Polanski and he was convicted and fled the country,” said Fletcher. “And, no one says anything about Woody Allen who is celebrated even though he had an affair with and married his [adopted] daughter.”
During a 2015 NPR interview, Allen said that his relationship with Soon Yi Preven, his formerly adopted daughter, worked, because of their previous parent-child relationship.
Cosby’s supporters said that’s proof of a double standard.
“I have 500 channels and I can’t tell our young people about ‘The Cosby Show’ and how important it was for African-Americans, but Woody Allen can do his movies and Polanski his and Bill O’Reilly can get $25 million from Fox after a sex abuse scandal,” said Fletcher. “They won’t let me show my grandchildren why Cosby has made such a great impact on Black people.”