Whoopi Goldberg had been one of the few celebs left defending Bill Cosby in the wake of multiple rape accusations, until she seriously changed her tune on “The View” on Tuesday, blaming her previous comments on a lack of legal understanding.
But a source closely connected to ABC told FOX411 that Goldberg’s new take was the result of pressure from network honchos.
“ABC put pressure on her to back down in a big way as they were inundated with anti-Whoopi [complaints]. Execs were putting hard pressure on her, that’s the reason she backed down,” the insider revealed.
During Tuesday’s episode, ABC’s legal analyst Dan Abrams explained the basics of statutes of limitations, rape charges and the severity of the claims being made against Cosby, 78, as an attentive Goldberg nodded and uttered “right” and “O.K.” throughout Abrams lecture.
Sitting with Abrams, Goldberg admitted that “the information that’s out there kind of points to guilt.”
Goldberg caused controversy last week when she defended Cosby saying: “I say this because this is my opinion, and in America, still, I know it’s a shock, but you are still innocent until proven guilty. He has not been proven a rapist.”
Partner at Goldman McCormick PR Ryan McCormick credits the network in helping Goldberg salvage her reputation.
“It provides cover for two different [areas]. It provides cover for Whoopi Goldberg because she made those statements and she was passionate about them,” McCormick told FOX411. “It also provides cover for the greater good of the show and for the greater good of ABC— for them to orchestrate this— it was a really great strategy. It worked out well because as the story gets progressively worse, you don’t want to be seen as somebody defending someone, especially when they’ve admitted on public record for doing something so horrific [as purchasing drugs to give to women.]”
Another source connected to ABC said the sit-down with Abrams was a proactive way to discuss the legal ramifications—or lack thereof— of the claims against Cosby.
President of Hollywood Life Bonnie Fuller said the legal one-on-one was a good way to do damage control.
“This was a smart way by the show to explain to their viewers exactly why Bill Cosby can't be prosecuted, despite all the accusations against him,” she said.
Another source connected to ABC’s “The View” added to FOX411 that Goldberg has long been a challenge for the staff to deal with.
A representative from ABC denies the network pressured the View host to back off her support of Cosby.
In a testimony for a sexual-abuse case filed by former Temple University employee Andrea Constand, Cosby admitted to offering Quaaludes to women with the intent of having sex with them.
A representative for Goldberg has yet to return request for comment.
Fox News' Hollie McKay contributed to this report.