POLITICS
11/19/2014 01:43 pm ET Updated Nov 19, 2014

Howard Kurtz Is Having A Hard Time Figuring Out Why People Might Be Put Off By Bill Cosby

Comedian and pudding pop addict Bill Cosby was accused of rape on Tuesday by model Janice Dickinson, who joins a growing number of women who have said that Cosby raped them. His response has been to deny, deflect and, on one occasion, literally refuse to speak about these claims. As a result, Cosby is grossing out many of the brands that have hitherto shown a willingness to be associated with him. This has given Fox News' media thought-haver Howard Kurtz the occasion to goofsplain "Why liberals are turning on Bill Cosby." The correct answer, by the way, is that it seems that Cosby is a creepy sexual predator.

But Kurtz doesn't really care for the obvious answer, preferring instead this balderdash:

And one of the most striking things about Cosby’s refusal to comment on a rising tide of rape allegations is that the reactions are breaking down along political lines. Conservatives, who admire the way that Cosby has spoken out against dysfunction and lousy parenting in black families, are skeptical. Liberals, who view themselves as champions of women’s rights, are abandoning him.

So as new questions swirl around America’s dad, the television icon, the guy who broke a racial barrier on prime-time TV, they are also being filtered through a political lens on the African-American superstar who dared take on his own community.

Kurtz's contention here is that "liberals" have abandoned Cosby because they do not care for his brand of racial respectability politics, while "conservatives" aren't so sure whether to believe the rape allegations. That's pretty unkind to "conservatives," from whom no mass movement has arisen to leave their daughters alone with the doddering former "Cosby Show" star. It's also unkind to "liberals," whom Kurtz assumes are rejecting Cosby because of his racial politics rather than because he seems to be a rapist.

I've put "liberals" and "conservatives" in scare-quotes here not to belittle either liberals or conservatives, but to merely point out that these concepts exist solely in Kurtz's imagination as straw men. While Kurtz does provide some background on the changing responses to Cosby's politics over time, he cites only Rush Limbaugh on the right and Salon columnist Brittney Cooper on the left as evidence of how the two sides have responded to the rape accusations against Cosby. That's really not enough to assert a claim of consensus opinion on the part of either liberals or conservatives. (Kurtz would be well-served to examine some of the events that precipitated this controversy -- namely, comedian Hannibal Burress' remarks about Cosby that gave this long-moribund story new life, and the Jian Ghomeshi scandal in Canada that forced that nation's creative industry players into a searing period of soul-searching and self-scorn -- if he'd like to get to the bottom as to why this is all happening now. The tidal forces of "left-versus-right" politics have nothing whatsoever to do with it.)

But, yes, as Kurtz points out, it's true that many liberals (really, many black Americans) have bridled at Cosby's brand of respectability politics.

What I would point out, though, is that there's been a similar resistance to another prominent black American who's made a point to spread the gospel of respectability politics -- President Barack Obama. Many of the same arguments that have been applied to Cosby's racial politics have been advanced against the president. And this is a worthwhile debate that's going to persist among perfectly decent and thoughtful people on all sides long after both Cosby and Obama quit the public stage.

Yet while Obama's prescriptives for the black community will continue to be debated and perhaps resisted, we've not yet seen Obama treated with the same widespread revulsion that's recently embroiled Cosby.

Why is that? Well, it's because Obama didn't allegedly drug and rape a bunch of women. This stuff isn't hard to figure out.

Kurtz, however, has somehow come to find it fascinating that people who have always failed to embrace Cosby's brand of racial politics continue to not embrace Cosby now. This does not make sense. Why on earth would multiple rape allegations inspire people to rethink their previous rejections of Cosby? "You know, I've always been deeply skeptical of Cosby's paternalistic approach to the problems faced by the black community, but now that I'm hearing about how he forcibly penetrated a bunch of sedated young women I'm beginning to see his point of view," is not a thing that any human being outside of the sociopath community says.

There's a far more interesting question that Kurtz missed. Namely: Why would anyone who does embrace Cosby's brand of racial politics even want to continue to stick by Cosby? They're the ones who are in need of a new spokesmodel.

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