The Bill Cosby disintegration

The Cosby Show helped to redefine, for a while, what black people on TV were like.

Kennedy Center Honors winner Bill Cosby (1998)
Kennedy Center Honors winner Bill Cosby (1998)

Mark Evanier was right when he wrote: “You can kind of tell Bill Cosby is in serious trouble because the photos of him have all gone from looking like” the Cosby of thirty or forty years ago “to looking like” the 77-year-old man that he is. “Much the same change has occurred in a lot of minds.”

Bill Cosby was someone I looked to, not just because I found him funny. Though I did find his stories hilarious, especially on his comedy albums of the mid-1960s.

He was, at least as a public figure, a decent person, supportive of education in particular, for which he received a Ph.D. It’d be difficult to overstate the importance of his role on the TV show I Spy. I suggest that he was as significant an entertainer, and specifically a black performer, as Harry Belafonte or Sidney Poitier.

I enjoyed the Bill Cosby Show, where he played a teacher. His role as a doctor, husband, and father with an upwardly mobile family on the Cosby Show helped to redefine, for a while, what black people on TV were like.

While I barely care what the Duggar family, or that Duck Dynasty guy, or someone from Honey Boo Boo, or Kirk Cameron say or do, Bill Cosby engendered a lot of goodwill. Heck, he could sell us Jello pudding.

So these accusations of rape are increasingly credible, with story after story of similar detail.

One can ask why there were hints and allegations going back years, yet no charges were filed, and the statute of limitations has passed. It’s reasonable to assume it was from the horrible embarrassment the women would likely have gone through. As proof, note the verbal abuse the accusers are currently experiencing.

As The Atlantic put it: “Lacking physical evidence, adjudicating rape accusations is a murky business for journalists. But believing Bill Cosby does not require you to take one person’s word over another—it requires you take one person’s word over 15 others.”

Or as Cynthia Tucker put it: “Cliff Huxtable And Bill Cosby Are No Longer The Same Man.” And quite possibly, never were.
Dirty little open secrets: How the Jian Ghomeshi scandal helped turn the tide against Bill Cosby.

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