Why the media were right to convict Bill Cosby

During the months when one woman after another was accusing Bill Cosby of sexual assault, I would sometimes get complaints from viewers that he was being convicted by the media.

That’s right. He was. Because the evidence was pretty overwhelming.

And now we learn that Cosby has admitted using drugs to get women to have sex.

I want to make a clear distinction here. Legally, Cosby is entitled to the presumption of innocence like every other American. He will likely never face charges, because the statute of limitations has long since expired on these cases.

But the court of public opinion is different. And in that arena, it long ago became clear that Cosby is a serial sexual abuser.

More than 30 women have accused him of horrible conduct, ranging from sexual assault to unwanted touching, all involving him giving them pills or slipping something into their drink.

When skeptics would ask whether these accusers were looking for a bit of fame or some kind of payday, my response was the same: Let’s say half of them are. Let’s say half of them are making it up. But all 30? That’s utterly improbable.

Why did most of them wait so long to go public about allegations as much as four decades old? In part because it’s embarrassing, and intimidating to make such accusations against the man who played Cliff Huxtable. And if you don’t know that Cosby did this to other women, you could worry that no one would take your word against that of a rich and influential celebrity.

I also felt that if Cosby was being wrongly accused by so many women, why didn’t he speak out? Why didn’t he grant interviews and issue forceful denials? Instead he tried to pressure one reporter into not using what amounted to a no comment, and gave rambling, off-the-point responses in an ABC interview.

Kudos to the Associated Press for sticking with the story. It was the AP that went to court to obtain the records from a 2005 civil suit filed by Andrea Constand, who said she went to Cosby’s home, that he gave her medication that made her dizzy, and she later woke up to find her bra undone and her clothes in disarray.

In the key exchange from Cosby’s deposition, the comedian recalled an incident in Las Vegas in the 1970s.

"She meets me backstage. I give her Quaaludes. We then have sex," Cosby said.

The lawyer asked: "When you got the Quaaludes, was it in your mind that you were going to use these Quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with?"

"Yes," Cosby replied.

Cosby also admitted that he acquired seven prescriptions of Quaaludes with the intent of giving them to women he wanted to have sex with, though he did not testify that he actually drugged any of them. Cosby said he gave drugs to “other people,” but the questioning was cut off after his lawyers objected.

The lawsuit was settled on a confidential basis. The Cosby camp gave this statement to ABC: "The only reason Mr. Cosby settled was because it would have been embarrassing in those days to put all those women on the stand and his family had no clue. That would have been very hurtful."

Um, right. It would have been embarrassing for his family to know he was using drugs to force himself on lots of women.

Think about what these women have been through. Joan Tarshis, who said Cosby raped her when she was 19, told CNN that she "never thought this day would happen…

"First of all, I kept it a secret because I was afraid to talk about it, because of Mr. Cosby's power. Then, when we came out, and lots of other women started to come out, we were called liars. And now that the truth has come out -- that he has bought drugs in order to drug women to have sex with him -- I'm just so relieved that the truth has come out.”

Barbara Bowman, who was making the cable rounds yesterday, had earlier told the Washington Post about Cosby pinning her down while trying to take off his pants, until she fled: “The incident was so horrifying that I had trouble admitting it to myself, let alone to others…Why wasn’t I believed? Why didn’t I get the same reaction of shock and revulsion when I originally reported it? Why was I, a victim of sexual assault, further wronged by victim blaming when I came forward?”

Another accuser, Beverly Johnson, wrote this in Vanity Fair:

“In the end, just like the other women, I had too much to lose to go after Bill Cosby. I had a career that would no doubt take a huge hit if I went public with my story…

“I struggled with how to reveal my big secret, and more importantly, what would people think when and if I did? Would they dismiss me as an angry black woman intent on ruining the image of one of the most revered men in the African American community over the last 40 years?”

I guess I take this personally because I grew up listening to Cosby’s comedy albums in his Fat Albert days, admired his trailblazing role on television with “I Spy” and also his courage in speaking out about problems in black families.

He is 77 now, and his career has been largely ruined: Projects sidelined by NBC and Netflix, “Cosby Show” reruns canceled by TV Land. He’s still doing live shows, sometimes interrupted by hecklers.

But now that we have this admission in his own words, it is impossible to feel sorry for Bill Cosby.

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