I’ve been having a hard time digesting the increasing number of claims that beloved Bill Cosby, American icon of the first order, was a serial rapist.
The alleged claims include those from a reported 15 women, the latest being supermodel and actress Janice Dickinson. Many of the stories are similar, alleging that Cosby often groomed them under the guise of wanting to help their careers, then either giving them a pill or a possibly spiked drink before assaulting them.
I don’t know that any of the stories can be proved, given that many happen years ago. But the sheer volume is frightening.
Could the man who became one of America’s most prominent (if not the most prominent) TV dads be a monster in private?
I don’t want to believe that can or is true. For the longest time, I tried not to even comment about the claims as they became widely known.
But the sheer volume of the claims makes it harder to ignore now.
From a legal standpoint, he is innocent until proven guilty. Unless there are no recent claims - that he allegedly did some of this during a period in which he can still be charged - he will forever be innocent as a matter of law.
But the law isn’t the only thing that matters. The court of public opinion matters, too, especially concerning a man who benefited handsomely while gaining the public’s trust. Such is the double edge sword of fame.
So what do we do with Cosby and other flawed heroes?
Half of our early presidents, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, were slave owners, and participated in one of the world’s great evils, and we still love and celebrate them.
And then there are those who are Cosby contemporaries, such as the star of the former hit show “7th Heaven.”
Stephen Collins, who played a preacher and upright father on the show, has reportedly confessed to child molestation.
Then there’s Michael Jackson and his curious relationships with children, and CeeLo Green, who was an iconic musician and on a hit TV show until he essentially said it can’t be rape if the woman had been drugged and is unaware of what’s happening to her.
There are others in different walks of life, including real-life mega pastors like Ted Hagg ard, who have also fallen from grace.
I guess the best thing to say is that if we are still surprised when such allegations surface, it means we haven’t lost hope in the basic goodness of humanity, or that we still believe most human beings strive to do and be good, even if imperfectly.
I’m still not sure we have figured out how to reconcile the good our flawed heroes have done with the crimes they did (or allegedly) commit.
I don’t have an answer for that. I’m not sure there is a sensible one.