For decades Bill Cosby has been enshrined as America's most treasured TV Dad, the quintessential symbol of all that is good and wholesome in family values conscious America. The adulation for Cosby is so colossal and enduring that he's been rewarded with yet another run at a TV series and a widely acclaimed biography. But what do we make of the other Cosby? The one who a 46-year-old artist now claims drugged and raped her when she was 17? She's just the latest to pile on Cosby as a serial sexual predator. Her tale of alleged Cosby abuse echoes in detail the sordid tales of druggings, rapes, and other assorted sexual abuses by 13 other women that spanned decades.
Those were the same decades that Cosby was propped up on the top rung of the family values pedestal. When the allegations first surfaced some years back, an angry Cosby screamed foul, and claimed that the charges were nothing but a shakedown of a rich and famous celebrity. Though no criminal charges have ever been filed against him, Cosby has quietly settled lawsuits against him out of court. This go round Cosby has said nothing about the latest sexual abuse charges. But a spokesperson has called the accusations "preposterous."
The tragic irony is that he has done more than his women accusers to massacre his own image.
Cosby inadvertently made himself a sitting duck for the finger-pointing when in his well-meaning, but ill-tempered tirades he repeatedly lambasted poor black teens and their parents for being lousy parents, educational slackers, for butchering the English language, and for their alleged thuggish behavior. The indictment was way too broad, too sweeping, and it inched dangerously close to reinforcing the same vile racial stereotypes that Cosby has spent most of his professional career fighting against. To no surprise, a horde of conservative commentators and unreconstructed bigots have stumbled over themselves to hail Cosby as the ultimate truth-giver and laud him for having the courage to air dirty racial laundry.
Now Cosby has been dumped back on the bad behavior hot seat. If America's number one Dad can ride high up in the moral saddle and lecture other blacks on their alleged bad behavior, than he should be held to the same lofty standard. The hint of sexual misconduct left him wide open to the accusation that he was a hypocrite and a fraud.
There were warning signs that Cosby might eventually be ripe for a tumble. In 1997 he made a bombshell confession that in the '70s he had an extra marital affair, and was accused of fathering an illegitimate daughter. There were allegations of shakedowns, under the table hush money payoffs, an extortion trial and conviction of the woman who claimed to be his illicit daughter, and an avalanche of embarrassing kiss and tell tabloid gossip stories on Cosby.
He dodged the bullet on that one. In sex scandal driven America, it's a virtual rite of passage for the celebrity, rich and famous to be embroiled in peep show scandals. The public delights in that kind of titillation. It was hard to ban in Boston a guy who had shelled out millions to minority student scholarship funds, black colleges and had worked tirelessly for civil rights causes over the years. Cosby also continued to rail against the "clown," "coon," and "buck dance" image that blacks propagated of themselves in TV sitcoms. He pushed and prodded the film and TV industry to do more to promote more positive black images on screen.
However, the glue on Cosby's still largely intact good guy image loosened when the parade of women leveled the drugging and sexual assault charges against him. Cosby initially vehemently denied the charges, but swiftly shifted into damage control mode and, as he delicately put it, admitted to having a "sexual encounter" with one of them. But, he quickly added the requisite, that it was consensual. This still fit the jaded public belief that the rich and famous routinely have their little sexual trysts, and who makes a big deal out of that?
Cosby defenders have again rushed to the barricades to defend him reminding all that allegations are just that, allegations, and not proof of any wrongdoing. And that these are nothing more than crass and self-serving put-up jobs to character assassinate yet another high-profile, outspoken black man and thereby sully all blacks as moral degenerates. They are in part right. They are allegations only, and despite the cheerleading of him, he's not totally immune to being the recipient of the same bashing he's unceremoniously piled on other blacks for their plight.
America's favorite dad may be right that his parade of sexual accusers is out to gouge a star. But this doesn't change the fact that now many paint him as anything other than a model Dad. He can only blame himself for his sullied image.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.
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