The arguments go back and forth.
Detractors of comedian Bill Cosby say he made his bed and should suffer the consequences.
Supporters argue that greed, extortion and a campaign to distort his legacy by alleged racists have destroyed Cosby’s career.
At the center of the greed are the women who sued Cosby for defamation after his legal team denied their claims — and courts have recently sided with Cosby in many of those cases, supporters say.
Extortion, they said, comes courtesy of attorney Gloria Allred, who in 2014 called on Cosby to put $100 million in a fund for the alleged victims and to let a panel of retired judges determine the truth about their claims, many of which allegedly happened in the 1960s and 1970s.
And claims of racism have mostly been directed at Hollywood and its tolerance for individuals such as Roman Polanski and Woody Allen and Judd Apatow, who has been vocal in his condemnation of Cosby, even calling the “I Spy” star “one of the most awful people you’ve ever heard of.”
A recent promo for Apatow’s HBO show depicts a scantily clad black woman serving Apatow breakfast and asking, “Tell me what you like.”
“Look at Apatow and what he portrays,” said Terri Fletcher, a retired nurse who lives in Pennsylvania where Cosby will stand trial on sexual assault charges in June. “He is the spokesperson for the anti-Cosby crowd, but he’s shown himself in my eyes to be a misogynistic racist.”
Tanisha Jones, a New York fashion designer who works in the entertainment industry, called the allegations against Cosby “an absolute intentional murder of his legacy.”
“I’m a woman who feels for any woman who has been raped, assaulted or demeaned in any way,” said Jones, 28. “But, realistically, we have not seen evidence that any of this is true, yet we can’t watch his shows which all have been groundbreaking and a boost and an encouragement to black people. Yet, what we do see are other comedians going against Cosby with venom and attorneys like Ms. Allred asking Mr. Cosby for $100 million in what I think is nothing more than a shakedown.”
Allred has denied those claims and told NBC she thinks Cosby’s recent NNPA interview was an attempt to influence the jury pool.
“I expect Mr. Cosby and members of his family to continue to speak out in an attempt to portray him as a victim rather than as an alleged sexual predator,” Allred said.
Carolyn M. Byerly, a professor and chair of the department of communications, culture and media studies at Howard University’s School of Communications, offered her perspective.
Cosby’s early work clearly broke ground and should, of course, continue to be recognized, she said.
However, the “deeply significant events of what appears to be his later life behavior, cannot be dismissed or trivialized,” Byerly said.
“We do not know where things went wrong for Bill Cosby, but we have to listen to women who have broken silence, often with great emotional difficulty,” she said. “The charges are like other celebrity males who have similarly been charged with violating women sexually — of note are Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly from Fox News.”
Whether or not a jury finds Cosby guilty doesn’t matter because he’s admitted in a deposition to sexual activity and the use of drugs, said Robert C. Smith, professor of political science at San Francisco State University.
“Although it’s unfortunate Cosby’s co-stars have lost income because no one will air his shows, his punishment is fitting because it sends an unmistakable message that the sexual abuse of women will not be tolerated, no matter the man’s status, legacy or otherwise praiseworthy endeavors,” Smith said.
After Cosby and his daughter Evin spoke out, others voiced support for the superstar.
“It’s a sad day in America when one has been proclaimed guilty long before the start of a trial,” said Rev. Kenneth James Flowers, the pastor of the Greater New Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit. “But African-Americans have always been treated unfairly and disproportionately been treated as guilty.
Flowers, who also serves on AIPAC, a bipartisan organization of U.S. citizens committed to strengthening, protecting and promoting the U.S.-Israel relationship, said if Cosby is found guilty, “he must suffer whatever ramifications and punishment due him.”
“But, until then, let his shows continue to run and bring laughter to the world,” he said.
Fletcher, 55, also lamented the absence of “The Cosby Show” and other Cosby-related productions.
“They air movies by Polanski and he was convicted and fled the country,” Fletcher said. “And no one says anything about Woody Allen, who is celebrated even though he had an affair with and married his daughter.”
About the 20-plus-year relationship Allen has had with Soon Yi Preven, his formerly adopted daughter, the filmmaker told NPR in 2015 that it’s worked because of their previous parent-child relationship.
“I’m 35 years older, and somehow, through no fault of mine or hers, the dynamic worked,” Allen said. “I was paternal. She responded to someone who was paternal.”
Cosby’s supporters said that’s proof of a double standard.
“I have 500 channels and I can’t tell our young about ‘The Cosby Show’ and how important it was for African-Americans, but Woody Allen can do his movies and Polanski his and Bill O’Reilly can get $25 million from Fox after a sex abuse scandal,” Fletcher said. “They won’t let me show my grandchildren why Cosby has made such a great impact on black people.”