One cannot help but be moved by millions of people declaring “Je Suis Charlie” in solidarity with the brave staff of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, several of which were gunned down by Islamic terrorists.
This was a great moment for free speech and perhaps an even better one for a spirit of unity reaffirming the principles that bind us together. But this got me thinking about how fragile this is, and how quickly we forget it. It’s pretty easy to stand with murdered artists in France; the real challenge is standing up for the rights of even unpopular people.
Like Bill Cosby.
Now, hold on. Am I flatly proclaiming Cosby’s innocence? Of course not. And while I hope the accusations against him are investigated in their entirety, this is pretty clearly not happening.
I take very seriously the women who have accused Cosby of almost unspeakable crimes. They deserve to be heard and listened to carefully. But so does Bill Cosby. Right now, the accusers are having a free run of print, broadcast and social media, as well as the courts and our litigation system.
But I am starting to get a little suspicious of the rush to judgment about a wealthy and famous individual who has made more than his share of adversaries along the way being sued for $100 million by Gloria Allred. Finally, there is a racial aspect to this that is simply not constructive for anyone.
To begin with, some of the Cosby accusers have credibility problems. The website Daily Caller uncovered information worth considering.
- One Cosby accuser – represented by Allred – has been arrested and convicted multiple times in multiple states for crimes including disorderly conduct, false imprisonment, trespassing and prostitution.
- Another Allred client accusing Cosby of assault (and also suing him for $100 million) admits that she visited the actor numerous times and brought friends to the set of his television show for many years after she says he assaulted her.
- Perhaps most amazingly, another accuser is also suing Cosby, but not for assaulting her. She has instead filed a defamation suit alleging that Cosby harmed her “good name and reputation” by denying her allegations of assault.
Yes, Cosby is being sued for assault – and for saying he didn’t do it.
Let me repeat: Nothing here means that every accusation against Cosby is false. But doesn’t this information deserve to be fully vetted? Especially by a media that publishes sensational accusation after sensational accusation? Isn’t it important to get it right, as well as get it first?
For example, Cosby is the new punching bag for Hollywood, which used to love him. I wasn’t surprised by the jokes at the Golden Globe awards. Less understandable is the social media campaign of superstar writer/producer Judd Apatow, who has repeatedly pronounced Cosby guilty with words and tone that more than a few African Americans (not just myself) found troubling.
“I am pretty sure I have had sex with less people than he raped.”
“Cosby has more victims than some cool people have followers.”
This was enough for Kenya Barris, the creator of the television show “Black-ish”. While making absolutely clear he was not proclaiming Cosby’s innocence, Barris Tweeted to Apatow, “Dude, enough. As we have seen recently, nothing is true till it is & he’s thru. Done. Stop kicking. It’s like ur getn (sic) some sick pleasure from watching a black man who meant so much for so many fall.”
Besides the fact that he has repeatedly defended Woody Allen (who has admitted to far worse behavior than Cosby), Apatow perhaps unwittingly revealed the selective outrage much of the black community is suspicious about.
At the premier of “Selma”, Cosby’s former co-star Phylicia Rashad went public for the first time about the allegations: “What you’re seeing is the destruction of a legacy. And I think it’s orchestrated. I don’t know why or who’s doing it, but it’s the legacy.”
Whoopi Goldberg is also supporting Cosby. Singer and actress Jill Scott cited Cosby’s “magnificent legacy.” Hip-hop artists MC Lyte and Azalia Banks wonder if he’s being framed.
This is not healthy for our society. But it is the inevitable result of the stampede against Cosby. I don’t expect anyone will be saying “Je Suis Cosby” anytime soon, but here’s hoping that as we uphold the principle of free speech, we don’t forget the presumption of innocence either.