Here’s How Bill Cosby Answered Our Question About Those Sexual Assault Allegations
On Tuesday morning at 11 a.m., a who’s-who of important Philadelphians mounted a stage on the Ben Franklin Parkway to honor the men and women who fought for our country, the occasion being Veteran’s Day.
The mayor of Philadelphia was there, and so were former mayor-turned-governor Ed Rendell, PA Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille, United States Congressman Chaka Fattah, State Senator Vincent Hughes, all sorts of impressively decorated military types … the list goes on. But the real guest of honor was undoubtedly Bill Cosby, who showed up not in his typical Temple gear for this formal occasion but a grey Navy sweatshirt. Cosby was once an enlisted man.
Mayor Michael Nutter, arriving late due to obligations at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, acknowledged Cosby from the podium, saying, “Thank you, sir, for everything.” Senator Hughes paid his respects. The Greatest Governor In the History of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Hughes’ title for Rendell) had some kind words for the Cos, too, as did Lieutenant General Thomas P. Bostick, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
But the one most taken by Cosby was undoubtedly Fattah — yes, the same Chaka Fattah who has the feds swarming around his inner circle.
“We need to have a Bill Cosby Month in Philadelphia,” proclaimed Fattah, apparently quite impressed with the moral fiber of Cosby. “Thanks for your lifetime of support.” Fattah noted that he’d be talking with Mayor Nutter about the idea, and the crowd of hundreds responded with enthusiastic applause, whistles and woos.
Now, if you’ve been following the not-so-nice storyline of the 13 women who several years ago allegedly accused Cosby of sexually assaulting them (something he’s never been arrested for or charged with), saw the viral video about Cosby’s sexual assault allegations from comedian Hannibal Buress’s recent Philadelphia performance, and especially if you were on Twitter on Monday night, when a Bill Cosby sexual assault meme made the rounds in full force, it might come as a bit of a surprise to you that Cosby would even be invited to attend such a hallowed, important event, let alone that he would be praised so highly at it, as if he personally raised the flag on Iwo Jima.
Or you might expect to show up at the Veteran’s Day event only to find it besieged by protestors from organizations like Women Organized Against Rape (and this is where our lawyers will insist that we point out that Cosby was never accused of rape, which is a different crime than sexual assault, depending on your state’s definition), whose offices are but a 10-minute walk from the site of the festivities.
I thought I spotted a couple of potential candidates for women who might try to shout down Cosby while he gave his remarks, but then I saw them cracking smiles at his jokes. Clearly, no outrage there.
I decided to talk to several women, asking them whether they were surprised that Cosby was held in such high regard given the nature and persistence of the allegations against him.
“I think I heard something about that when I was a kid,” said one African-American woman, probably in her 20s. “I heard that he liked younger girls. But sexual assaults? No, I don’t believe it. These women didn’t say this back when it supposedly happened, right? So then it probably didn’t happen, because if it did, they would have said something way back then.”
Another woman — white, perhaps late 30s — said she just happened to be walking by the event and decided to see what it was all about. “I’ve never heard about that,” she told me when I asked her about the sexual assault allegations against Cosby. “And I listen to NPR all the time.”
The women I spoke to either never heard about the allegations or didn’t believe them. After all, who could imagine that the man who brought us Jello Pudding Pops, Fat Albert and Dr. Huxtable could possibly be a predatory monster?
I also got a chance to talk to Fattah about his grand idea for Bill Cosby Month, asking him if he really thought that it was a good idea to bestow such an honorific on a man with such a dark cloud over his head.
“You may not be familiar with this document called the United States Constitution,” Fattah told me with a smile, as he made his way from the stage. “It says that you are innocent until proven guilty and that absent a conviction — or in this case, even a charge — you cannot ruin somebody’s reputation. I find it insulting. But maybe that Constitutional standard only applies to certain types of people.”
In point of fact, the presumption of innocence is not a right guaranteed by the United States Constitution, but the Congressman’s overall point is well-taken. Sure, the fact that 13 women may have claimed that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted them doesn’t mean it’s true.
Wanting to know what Cosby himself has to say about these ugly stories, I waited for him to finish his remarks in Philadelphia. After he took photos with veterans and did at least one television interview, I found myself standing within inches of his face.
“Dr. Cosby, any response to the allegations that you drugged and sexually assaulted more than a dozen women?” I asked him. At first, he grimaced, and his bodyguards tried to move him away from me.
“No, wait, wait wait,” he told them.
“Come here,” he said to me. And then he leaned over in my ear and whispered “no.” And as he moved away from me, he treated me to that beautiful Bill Cosby smile.
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