Fishy Timing: Cosby Sex Charges

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It has come to this. Ask yourself why.
Bill Cosby, who a month ago was fighting to bring attention to poor parenting and self-inflicted problems within the African American community, is now fighting to restore his reputation. Ask yourself why.

Every time an allegation of impropriety surfaces against a celebrity like Cosby, they circle the wagons, attorneys begin spinning their truths for the media and before you know it, reputations are rendered asunder. That dialogue he started was all but rendered asunder just as he was coalescing a nationwide discussion about the do’s and don’ts of some African American parents who fail to raise obedient, respectful and hard-working children. Was someone trying to quiet his crusade? Maybe it can continue, if we take up the drum beat.

Last spring, I did an hour-long radio interview with Dr. Cosby in Detroit about what he said at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Brown v. the Board of Education Supreme Court decision. He spoke from his experiences as an educator, comedian and storyteller, pridefully recounting the love, respect and nurturing that existed in African American communities before desegregation. Cosby stressed that his message was one of love, not hate. And as a loving parent, he needed to speak the truth to our children because some of them – not all, he emphasized – needed help. One central point Dr. Cosby made was we need to bang the drum, to get the message out to as many people as possible. That’s why he asked Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley to help make that possible in a city where more than 85 percent of the people are African American.

A week before the allegations against Cosby became public, he was in Detroit, banging the drum. He wasn’t alone. More than 1,800 mothers, fathers and children, politicians, corporate CEOs, educators and community volunteers assembled to hear him. Yet, he listened before he spoke. The gathering was called “A Conversation with Bill Cosby,� but most of the talking was done by others. He shared the stage with representatives from more than two dozen non-profit community groups that have been fighting the good fight, battling teen pregnancy, joblessness, adult illiteracy and homelessness.

In two-minute speeches, those sitting with Cosby read poetry and offered information on reaching teens, teaching them to read, tutoring and volunteering. They told personal stories, including how a carjacking was averted just by lovingly convincing the male assailant the crime wasn’t worth it. Cosby’s Detroit appearance was his last before allegations were made public. He cancelled his Jan. 20 appearance in Cleveland. If you haven’t been keeping up, here’s the latest.

A former Temple University employee accused Cosby of sexual assault. She said it happened in January 2003, at his home. The woman, who worked for Temple’s women’s basketball program at the time, said Cosby gave her “herbal� pills that made her dizzy. She recalls passing out, and said Cosby allegedly touched her breast and placed her hand on his genitals. Cosby, through a spokesman, first denied the allegation, but Monday (Jan. 31.) ABC News reported that he admitted to having sexual contact with the unnamed woman, saying the touching was consensual. Cosby has been interviewed by prosecutors investigating the allegations but the district attorney has not decided whether to file any charges.

As a journalist who has seen this scenario play out countless times with celebrities, I suggest keeping this in mind:  Don’t render a judgment on what happened until all the facts are in. Everyone, particularly attorneys in situations like this, knows that trying someone in the court of public opinion can be a lot more damaging than the real thing. Cosby’s controversial remarks about bad grammar and bad behavior among poor African Americans struck a nerve and a resounding cord. From the start, he has insisted that these problems, if talked about and faced up to, can be resolved.

The dialogue needs to continue whether Cosby is leading it or not. He insists the solutions lie within each of us. Prove him right.

John X. Miller is a journalist at the Detroit Free Press. Contact: To subscribe to the newsstand issue of The Black Star News with more stories, including investigative exposes, click on "subscribe" on the homepage or call 212-481-7745.

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