Monday, November 24, 2014

Cosby and the unending half-life of accusations

I can't begin to talk about the psychology of rape or rape victims. I don't know what I don't know. And, probably, neither do you.

But when the recent round of accusations against Bill Cosby surfaced last week, and the only rebuttals came from Dr. Cosby's attorney (an interesting choice of spokesperson), my PR gene kicked in.

By cropped by JGHowes from
File:Lee Archer memorial service
 (2010).jpg [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Cosby calls these charges "innuendos." Given the number of women who've stepped forward with claims, the word "predatory" comes to mind. Either way, it's a sad capstone for Dr. Cosby's decades of professional achievement and acclaim. Here's a recent account:

The PR guy in me asked: "If I'm a beloved 77-year-old entertainer whose bank accounts total an estimated $400 million, and I'm facing rampant accusations in an era when nonstop media coverage amplifies any and every story, what's my path forward?"

My answer: I apologize. I donate a respectful contribution to organizations that work to help prevent rape and assist rape victims. 

And then, I retire. 

It's not like the era of matinee movie idols, when actors such as Errol Flynn's personal exploits were seen as "dalliances" and had a short shelf-life in glossy movie magazines. Media coverage on the Internet is relentless. One hard reality: rarely is an article taken down, even if it's later proven inaccurate. 

Cosby has had a great run. (Not counting Ghost Dad and Leonard Part 6). While continuing a string of concert performances and attempting to launch another weekly TV sitcom might fatten his wallet, these endeavors won't burnish his reputation. True or hollow, the accusations will dog him at every public or talk-show appearance.

As an entertainer, he has little left to prove.

Among the first comedy recordings I purchased was Cosby's hysterical 200 MPH LP. He was an innovator in stand-up, and as a black lead actor in the NBC-TV series I Spy. I'd prefer to remember him that way, not as a senior citizen fighting a chorus of charges by clamming up and delivering a silent 'No Comment.'