Rosa Prince — Independent.ie Nov 17, 2014
He was the father every child in America wished was theirs, his weekly appearances as the irascible but lovable star of The Cosby Show was so popular that he is credited with single-handedly reviving the entire sitcom genre.
But now Bill Cosby, whose role as Cliff Huxtable in the 1980s show earned him the nickname “America’s Dad,” has seen his reputation destroyed in a matter of weeks, after decades-old rumours about his behaviour with young women came back to haunt him.
An excruciating radio interview on the respected and widely listened-to National Public Radio (NPR) network, in which he refused to answer questions about the reports and merely shook his head, was followed by the cancellation a of high-profile television appearance to promote an exhibition featuring work from his collection of African art.
The 77-year-old comedian has been dogged by persistent rumours of rape allegations for many years.
However, much like the high-profile British names facing questions in the wake of the Jimmy Saville scandal, it is only now that his alleged victims’ claims are being listened to with any degree of seriousness.
The questions around Cosby’s behaviour escalated on Friday, when one of the dozen or more women who have accused him of rape over the course of 30 years, wrote an editorial in the Washington Post about her experiences.
Barbara Bowman accused Cosby of drugging and assaulting her in 1985, after being introduced to the star by her agent when she was a struggling actress and he was at the peak of his fame on The Cosby Show.
“Cosby won my trust as a 17-year-old aspiring actress in 1985, brainwashed me into viewing him as a father figure, and then assaulted me multiple times,” she said.
As creator of the show, which ran for eight seasons from 1984 to 1992 and on which he played the patriarch of a large happy family, Cosby, was seen as breaking new ground by portraying African-Americans as successful and high-achieving.
His alleged victims claim that such was the adulation with which he was held in the industry that their complaints were ignored, and they were discouraged from contacting the police.
The rape claims were given fresh life however after a new biography was published earlier this year, which made no reference to the whispers long surrounding the star.
Cosby had always denied all the allegations, although he quietly made an out of court settlement with one accuser in 2006 over an incident of sexual assault which she claimed took place two years before.
Last month, stand-up comedian, Hannibal Buress, aired the allegations in his act, calling Cosby “a rapist.” A video of the performance went viral.
But it was not until Cosby’s cringeworthy appearance on NPR that the flames began to engulf him, with headlines such as “Stunning Fall of America’s Dad,” which was emblazoned on the front of Sunday’s New York Post.
The headlines came as recordings of the NPR interview were replayed and shared thousands of times.
The comedian had been joined by his wife, Camile, to take part in what they thought would be a highbrow discussion of his exhibition at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC.
At the end of the interview, host Scott Simon said to the comedian:”This question gives me no pleasure, Mr Cosby, but there have been serious allegations raised about you in recent days.”
After a pause, Simon went on: “You’re shaking your head no. I’m in the news business. I have to ask the question. Do you have any response to those charges?”
When there was still no reply, Simon persisted: “There are people who love you who might like to hear from you about this. I want to give you the chance.”
The interview was then terminated.
After the show’s recording, Cosby’s publicist confirmed he had withdrawn from appearing on the Late Show with David Letterman.
In a statement, Cosby’s attorney John P Schmitt said the comedian would not “dignify” … “decade-old, discredited” allegations of sexual abuse with any comment, adding that the fact that the allegations were being repeated did not make them true.