The following editorial appeared in The Sacramento Bee on Thursday:
There’s Bill Cosby, the man, and there’s Bill Cosby, the entertainer. America, so we learned this week, was wrong about one of them.
Bill Cosby, the man, as it turns out, is a bona fide creep.
For months, women have been coming forward to accuse the now-77-year-old of drugging and raping them. “Unsubstantiated, fantastical stories” is what Cosby’s camp called them. But now, thanks to his testimony in a recently unsealed civil case, we know that’s just spin.
Cosby, the man, did, in fact, drug at least one woman and have sex with her. He also admitted to buying seven prescriptions of the sedative Quaalude to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex.
Consensual sex, Cosby insisted.
“I meet Ms. (redacted) in Las Vegas,” he testified in the 2005 sexual assault case. “She meets me backstage. I give her Quaaludes. We then have sex.”
But a dose of Quaaludes can make a person pass out. That calls into question whether any woman he drugged would’ve been able to give her consent. If not, then accusations of rape aren’t out of line.
But then there’s Bill Cosby, the entertainer. He is still funny. He’s still talented.
He’s still one of the first black entertainers to appear on prime-time TV with shows such as “I Spy.” He’s the man we let our kids watch on “Sesame Street” and Jell-O commercials, and listen to on episodes of “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.”
He is still the entertainer who created and starred in one of the best, most wholesome sitcoms of all-time: “The Cosby Show.” And, in that role, he’s still rightfully admired as one of the first entertainers to put a family on TV that reflected the lives of upper-middle-class black families across the country.
That’s the hard part. Reconciling the creepy behavior of the man with the talent of the entertainer.
Maybe that’s why, despite the new evidence, despite networks yanking reruns of his shows and Disney removing a statue of him from its Hollywood Studios theme park, many of Cosby’s defenders haven’t given up. People still want to believe that his intentions were pure. That all of the women who have come forward over the past year are gold diggers and liars out to ruin Cosby’s legacy.
It is true that, in this country, people are innocent until proven guilty, but it’s increasingly apparent that Cosby was both a brilliant and lovable entertainer, and, at the very least, a repellent opportunist. And now, of course, he’s an elderly man whose frailty makes that unsealed testimony even harder to envision.
But that’s what his defenders need to come to terms with. The problem is, when it comes to our heroes, many of us have a hard time seeing them as complex humans.
Love or hate Bill Cosby. But if this week’s revelations hold anything of value, it’s that we don’t know what we don’t know about each other – and it’s not easy to admit that, for better or worse, for good or for bad.