Claims against Bill Cosby for sexual assault keep on coming.
TV legend Bill Cosby has denounced the sexual assault allegations against him as “innuendo”, but the claims keep coming and more shows are being cancelled, amid talk of the fall of an icon. “He’s trying to go on with the show, but the damage may be irrevocable,” says People magazine in a cover story on the 77-year-old, long known as America's favourite dad.
“It is not like he will never work again. But this has seriously compromised his future in entertainment,” says Robert Thompson, a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University in New York.
People noted that Cosby survived a civil lawsuit brought by 13 women in 2005, but now claims by those alleged victims have been joined by fresh allegations from other women. “The accusations keep coming, one disturbingly similar allegation after another,” says the magazine under the strapline The Fall Of Bill Cosby.
A pattern has emerged to the claims, since the first accuser Andrea Constand in 2004; they have involved the alleged victim being drugged and then forced into having sex with Cosby. Although he has not been charged with a crime, some 20 women have now made on-the-record claims of sexual assault dating back to the 1960s, including when Cosby was at the height of his fame.
They were joined by a male former studio employee, who claimed he arranged payments for eight women when Cosby was working on landmark TV series The Cosby Show. Frank Scotti, 90, a facilities manager for the New York studio where the show was filmed, says he organised payments of up to US$2,000 at a time for the women, which ran from 1984 to 1992.
“He had everybody fooled,” Scotti told the New York Daily News, adding that Cosby had him put his own name on the money orders. “Nobody suspected … He was covering himself by having my name on it.”
Cosby’s lawyer, well-known Hollywood attorney Marty Singer, dismisses the new claim. “How would Scotti know if a woman was a model or a secretary? It appears that his story is pure speculation so that he can get his 15-minutes of fame,” he told the newspaper.
Cosby himself, who has declined for weeks to comment on the allegations, broke his silence recently. “I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn’t have to answer to innuendos,” Cosby told Florida Today. “People should fact check. People shouldn’t have to go through that and shouldn’t answer to innuendos.”
Cosby was greeted with a standing ovation at a show in Florida recently, local media reported. But his show in Las Vegas last weekend had been called off, while there are reports of cancellations in Arizona, New Jersey and Washington state.
“Cancelled” announced a red banner slapped across Cosby’s face on the website of the Capitol Theatre in Yakima, Washington, where the comic was due to perform on Nov 29. Two weeks ago, US network NBC pulled the plug on a new Cosby sitcom, a day after streaming video service Netflix cancelled a planned special, piling pressure on the veteran comic.
The storm engulfing Cosby erupted last month, when comedian Hannibal Buress branded him a “rapist” during a stand-up show in Philadelphia, in a clip that went viral on social media. Cosby’s lawyer said the abuse claims have “escalated far past the point of absurdity”, adding: “It is long past time for this media vilification of Mr Cosby to stop.”
Steve Barrett, editor-in-chief of public relations industry journal PR Week, told AFP that Cosby is making a mistake by not talking. “Adopting a policy of silence is making him seem guilty in the eyes of public opinion,” he told AFP. “While this one-way communication continues it is difficult to see how his reputation and legacy can remain intact.” – AFP