Bill Cosby: bad behavior writ large

November 4, 2014


Bad behavior writ large is how Plato described the state–sort of like the individual, but larger and easier to examine. And that larger stage, so to speak, is why I’m glad that Bill Cosby’s bad behavior toward women has now gone public. Because for 25 years, while the general public was enjoying Cosby’s kindly TV character, his Jello commercials and his books, I knew something different.

I knew he was most likely a sexual predator.

I was on a plane to Singapore for business and sitting next to me was a beautiful, 19-year-old Eurasian model. It’s a long trip, and as we settled into our business class seats, we began to talk.  She eventually mentioned her desire to break into television, and then, as the conversation progressed,  told me about Bill Cosby. That she knew him and he’d offered to trade roles in a TV series–maybe even a starring role– for sex.

Now, Cosby’s image as a family man was a stark contrast to what she was describing. But as she talked I heard the ring of truth in her words. It made me view him differently from then on, of course.

I wasn’t surprised when the first charge became public. Even so, his public persona was strong and fans simply didn’t want to believe the accusations that he drugged women and assaulted them. That he was completed inappropriate in sexual ways.  “Not our hero!”

Of course, women who have been sexually assaulted are accustomed to this scenario. You know, the one in which their charges of assault couldn’t possibly be true.  The sheer number of women who stepped up with horrific stories should have made the Cosby situation very clear. But still, even modern women, accomplished women, said things like “I don’t want to believe unproven allegations.”

Well, you know, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. You can say you’re not sure, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a duck. The cumulative weight of the allegations told the story. So many women!

So again, when a peer told me her own Bill Cosby bad behavior story, I wasn’t surprised. Not at all.  That’s two who spoke with me directly about his behavior, and I am so not linked in to that world. Not in the slightest.

We throw the word “hero” around a lot these days, too much I believe. And of course, this beloved TV Dad, Fat Albert, intellectual man was a hero to many.  But. There’s a lot we don’t know about public figures. We need to be careful about this hero thing and also about closing our eyes to truths when they come out.

There’s validity in not wanting to judge too soon, but there’s also validity in listening to the preponderance of evidence.

The saddest thing of all to me is that in the 21st century women are dismissed and even castigated when they charge a famous man with sexual assault.  It’s hard to fathom. But there you have it.

“You’ve come a long way, baby.”  But not really.

Want more evidence of Cosby’s bad behavior?

Here’s a Gawker story about why people simply do not want to think Cosby is a sexual predator.

Here’s a timeline of some of the accusations against him.

And here’s what we need to do:


44 comments on “Bill Cosby: bad behavior writ large
  1. Sadly, this is the kind of situation we’re met with often today–women’s voices dismissed, the boys club rallying to protect their own and a society that allows violence against women to continue quietly and in cases rampantly.

    I suspect many of us know about ‘that guy’ who….

  2. In the UK at the moment it seems that almost every TV/radio presenter in the 1970’s and 1980’s was some kind of sexual deviant. It really ruins your childhood to know that XXXX was just exploiting their fame. While I am slightly shocked about these Cosby revelations, it doesn’t hit me that hard as all of his shows (and stand up) were far too smug for their own good.

  3. PatU says:

    Gee…disturbing! I’ve not heard any of this before.

  4. Nothing surprises me anymore. It is dangerous to place people on pedestals…whether a beloved television character or even a pastor or priest. We must continue to send this message and stand up for women and children. Recently a fraternity at Texas Tech University was banned because they hung signs at a party condoning forcible sex. I applaud those who had the courage to call them out and punish them, and I applaud you Carol for standing up on this important issue.

  5. Carolann says:

    Oh my gosh, I would have never thought that about him. I didn’t know he was doing these things wow. Sadly, I’m not shocked. I’ve been reading lots of stories as of late about men with bad behavior such as his. Nightmare for sure!

  6. I caught some flack on FB when I posted the article about him and said I hoped the accusations weren’t true. But more and more people are telling their sad tales. The women who wrote to me said not to believe everything in the media…hmmm…

    I just watched a tribute to Don Rickles, and Jerry Seinfeld said on the Mount Rushmore of comedy there’s Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Don Rickles and Bill Cosby.

    Yup, people still aren’t going to believe women’s stories.

  7. I hadn’t heard about the sexual assaults before, but I have a few friends who met him who said he’s an arrogant jerk. It’s time the truth came out for the women who have survived his attacks.

  8. Laura Kennedy says:

    Despite my better judgment, I read the comments section of the recent article about him. Most questioned the woman’s story and dissed her, forcefully and profanely. We have a looooong way to go with this stuff.

  9. Ruth Curran says:

    I was not surprised when this came out. You are right, we want to look away when something goes against what we believe we know – particularly when it is what we so desperately want to believe. If we really took a good look, we would see a pattern of men put on pedestals who have no boundaries and no need to develop any because we will all look the other way. I am not blaming the victims and I am not justifying bad behavior – never, never, never. I am saying that this is a deeply rooted cultural issue – we want heroes and we want them to be good – even if that means protecting them by looking the other way…. We must find a way to change that….

  10. kdcol says:

    This totally sickens me. I had never heard anything about his sexual assaults. I’ve always thought he was such a great role model and stand up guy. Well, until now. I’m glad I saw this, and I think I will be a lot more cautious about “pedestal” placement. Thank you.

  11. I just don’t understand why this is so prevalent. How do we raise our boys? Why do they feel so entitled?

  12. Lisha Fink says:

    I pray that the next generation of men isn’t allowed to feel this way. It seems too late for this one.

  13. Although there’s no question that the violence against women needs to stop, it’s so hard for the average person to know what is and isn’t true in terms of what’s put out there in the media. So many people behave in abhorrent ways and it doesn’t come to light. So many people are also wrongly accused by those with ulterior motives. It just muddies the water of this already difficult issue.

  14. Michelle says:

    It’s just so sickening. How do they live with themselves? And why do people continue to defend him?

  15. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    And to think about his holier than thou attitude now makes me sick. He has publicly berated other comedians whose acts he considers too profane. Just shut up. Also, he is pretty much the face of Temple U. here in Philly. Wonder when that will change. Or if.

  16. I dated one of those “nice guys”, the kind that mama likes, the kind that convinces your friends you should marry, the kind that the world sees as a good “Christian”–the kind that left me with bruises on my skin and scars in my mind. Sadly, too often we want to believe that the wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing really is a sheep. And sadly, too often the wolf attacks time and time again before anyone believes the cries of the attacked.

  17. Diane says:

    Years ago, I heard him publicly apologize to his wife whom he said had put up with a lot from him. Funny. I kept thinking maybe he was a slob. Yet another icon topples from his pedestal. Sigh.

  18. This seriously nauseates me. What a pig. I’m so very tired of finding out such things of folks I once admired.

  19. Karen says:

    We’re on the same wavelength again, Carol. Oddly enough, I’d heard whisperings about Cosby years ago–so long ago that I don’t remember the circumstances. I only know that when it started to become more public recently, I thought, “Well yeah–I thought this was old news!”

    The weird thing? In Canada, which has a tiny population compared to the US, and therefore (you’d think) would be a riper ground for that kind of rumour to spread, a similarly beloved national icon has been accused of brutal assaults by an ever-growing number of women. And yet, when the accusations became public, we were shocked to our core.

    We need to end violence against women. And the only way that will happen is if every single rapist or assailant knows that he will be brought before the legal system. As it stands, about 6 rapists per 1,000 is convicted. That, in itself, is a tragedy.

  20. Like the others who commented before me, this sickens me. We need a culture shift something fierce. I admire the work of Jackson Katz who has been saying for years that we need to change how we use words when discussing sexual assault and domestic violence. His suggestion is to emphasize the perpetrator, example: Men’s violence against women. And Men’s sexual assault on women. Versus the overdone media bulbs that call out the victims.

  21. Lana says:

    Great post Carol. Unfortunately, we place so much value on “celebrity” in our culture, and we think we know public figures based on their “persona”. I lost respect for Bill Cosby many years ago when whispers of these allegations started coming out – I also don’t like to be quick to judge, but there were just too many women coming forward – I knew there must be truth there. It’s very telling that you have personally been told about two instances. I fear his reach may be quite vast.

  22. Mindy Trotta says:

    Unfortunately for every one of those girls who comes forward with allegations, there will be five other “guys” who will stand up for this jerk. I remember a young woman coming forward a number of years ago claiming he was her father. He of course denied it, but it was found to be true. Yes, his wife has put up with a lot. Smug, condescending a-hole that he is.

  23. Nora Hall says:

    This is so sad. I had always enjoyed his performances, and never thought that he would behave in such a heinous manner.

  24. WendysHat says:

    As sad as this story is for those women who were hurt by him, It’s nice to know that their story is being heard. The truth always prevails in the end. Sad that this even had to happen to so many victims. Sad.

  25. When I worked in radio (many, many years ago), I had heard rumors he was very much a Caveman around women. And he has always had a reputation for being very vengeful, which kept a lot of the rumors squelched. It is and always has been a trait in the entertainment business. Men are judged not only by how much money they make, but by how many people they bed (male and female). There are few in the business that don’t have a boderline sex addiction.

  26. I was always such a fan of his and thought he was a great role model, but now I’m just disgusted.

  27. I had heard this about him via his Mustang Ranch visits years and years and years ago. Hero-worship is just that… worship…. wanting to believe in perfect goodness. Heros are few and far between and we never hear about the real ones. Personas are never real. We need to remember this. It is sort of like Mitch McConnell’s wife’s family company being involved in Liberian-registered ships smuggling huge amounts of cocaine from South America to Europe. The information is there, but no one talks about it.

  28. Oriah says:

    We’ve gone through something similar here in Canada in the last couple of weeks with women coming forward to talk about abuse at the hands of a much-loved radio host. In both cases the initial shock is the same: how could someone we felt we knew, someone we saw as a good and loving man, as a “friend” in some sense, do such a thing? I think we are at a new threshold. Most men never sexually assault a woman. But some do- and those few are not, as we would all hope, weird, strange, fringe-dwelling miscreants. They are often someone’s father, grandfather, husband, colleague, neighbour, boss, friend, brother, teammate. . . . . Most women who are assaulted know the man who preyed on them. How do we reconcile our image of a rapist as some dark shadowy stranger in the alley-way with the reality that they are men who live amongst us, men with whom we share workplaces, churches, homes, neighbourhoods? This will require some kind of new honestly with ourselves and each other.

  29. The fact that two people have told you about his bad behavior directly, even though you are not linked in with this—really makes me wonder why so many close to the situation looked the other way and did nothing.

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