WATCH: Cosby Asks AP to “Scuttle” Video of Sex Assault Questions
This is how the journalistic sausage gets made: The Associated Press has released video of an interview with Bill Cosby in which he refuses to answer questions about the sexual assault allegations against him — and asks the interviewer to “scuttle” that portion of the video.
As with the now-infamous interview with Scott Simon on NPR’s Weekend Edition, the AP interview — conducted earlier this month — was scheduled in order to discuss a donation of art pieces by Cosby and his wife to the Smithsonian. As with the NPR interview, the questions regarding sexual assault are tacked on at the end. And again: Cosby refuses to address the matter.
After the interview is seemingly complete, though, and while the cameras are still rolling, Cosby asks his interviewer to “scuttle” the portion of tape including the video about the assault allegations.
“Now can I get something from you?” Cosby asks.
“What’s that,” the interviewer responds.
“That none of that will be shown.”
The interviewer: “I … I can’t promise that myself. You didn’t say anything—”
Cosby: “I know I didn’t say anything. But I’m asking your integrity that since I didn’t want to say anything, but I did answer you, in terms of I don’t want to say anything, of what value will it have?”
It’s at that point that a woman off-camera — presumably also with AP — says: “I don’t think it has any value either.”
Cosby: “And I would appreciate it if it was scuttled.”
It’s a painful and embarrassing moment to watch — and maddening, perhaps, for journalists watching Cosby equate “integrity” with deferential treatment. Simon was criticized for broaching the topic apologetically with Cosby; the AP journalists here if anything seem much more timid about raising the topic and defending their right to ask about it. (On that count: Good for AP for releasing a video that has news value, but doesn’t necessarily show its journalists in the best, most stalwart light. That can’t be fun.)
But as the narrator of the video notes: AP made no promises to Cosby that the question go unasked, or that the video would go unreleased. And the video offers a good lesson to journalists and sources alike: You don’t ask to go off the record after something has been said — by then it’s too late. Cosby’s attempt to “scuttle” the video ends up making much more of an impression than his non-commentary ever would.