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What are the claims against Bill Cosby? And why are we only hearing about them now?

Cosby’s reputation as ‘America’s TV dad’ has been steadily dismantled in recent days. Here’s what he’s being accused of – and how America’s been reacting…

BILL COSBY’S REPUTATION as a much loved entertainer, comedian and ‘TV dad’ has been steadily dismantled over the last few days.

It’s after decades-old sexual abuse allegations resurfaced — prompting several more women to come forward and claim that they too were drugged and assaulted by the star.

The renewed focus on the claims has been a disaster for Cosby Inc. — a number of backers have pulled out of plans for new projects with the 77-year-old, chat show appearances and gigs have been cancelled, and even re-runs of The Cosby Show pulled from schedules.

Amidst all this, Cosby himself has been attempting to stay quiet — and apparently attempting to weather the storm.

So why are we only hearing now about the claims? And what are the chances we’ll see the comedian pursued legally?

Source: Cosby as the avuncular Cliff Huxtable in 'The Cosby Show'

What are the claims? 

Allegations of rape and sexual assault against the star have been bubbling under for years.

They first came to public attention in early 2005 when two women accused him of drugging and sexually assaulting them while they were passed out. One of the women, Andrea Constand, took a civil action.

Thirteen other women had been willing to testify at that trial — but the case was settled out of court the following year. The terms have never been disclosed.

More women have since come forward — with a number going public in just the last few days. Janice Dickenson, the TV celebrity and former model, said earlier this week that she had been drugged and sexually assaulted by the comedian in 1982.

Barbara Bowman, one of women who offered to testify for Andrea Constand, wrote in a Washington Post article last week that she was drugged and raped as a teenager.

Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images ... Janice Dickenson

Where did this renewed focus come from? 

The recent media interest in the issue was sparked by a routine from comedian Hannibal Buress, who referred to the rape allegations in a set in Philadelphia late last month.

As part of his routine, Buress lambasts Cosby for “talking down” to black people…

“‘Pull your pants up black people, I was on TV in the 80s! I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom!’ … Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches.”

A clip of the show was posted to Phillymag, and from there reached a wider audience…

Source: LaYToN/YouTube

In the wake of that clip surfacing, the Daily Mail also published an article giving a detailed account of Barbara Bowman’s claims against the comedian.

What’s the reaction been? 

The Buress clip and the Daily Mail article created a storm online — but apparently who-ever looks after Cosby’s social media presence didn’t notice…

Earlier this month an attempt to instigate a humorous meme experiment from his Twitter account went horribly awry.

Since then, both Netflix and NBC have pulled out of projects with the veteran comedian. He had been due to appear in a one-off special for the streaming service, and a new family-based sitcom was in the works with NBC.

The Netflix special, according to reports, was supposed to be “a birthday celebration for Cosby, in which he would share stories from his childhood, first romantic relationships and parenthood”.

Until yesterday, his live appearances seemed unaffected — but venues have now begun to pull the plug on the disgraced star.

What’s Cosby saying?

As the controversy intensified, his lawyer released a statement at the weekend. The general theme: ‘We won’t dignify this with an answer — and Bill’s a very old man’.

“He would like to thank all his fans for the outpouring of support and assure them that, at age 77, he is doing his best work,” the statement said.

“There will be no further statement from Mr Cosby or any of his representatives.”

In a round of interviews earlier this month to promote an art exhibition, a number of journalists pressed Cosby for a response.

NPR’s Scott Simon didn’t really get anywhere with him…

While a reporter from The Associated Press at least got a response on the record — before Cosby tried to strong-arm him not to broadcast the relevant footage.

AP only released the clip below in the last few days, even though the interview happened on 6 November.

It makes for uncomfortable viewing…

Source: Associated Press/YouTube

Is anyone supporting him? 

Well, the producers of ‘The Cosby Show’ Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner released this carefully-worded statement on Thursday.

“The Bill we know was a brilliant and wonderful collaborator on a show that changed the landscape of television. These recent news reports are beyond our knowledge or comprehension.”

Well-known activist the Reverand Al Sharpton, who knows Cosby personally, said the comedian needed to “answer to someone” instead of staying quiet.

“He needs to talk to somebody. He needs to talk,” the New York Post reported Sharpton as saying on Thursday.

What are the chances of a renewed legal action?

While the former sitcom favourite is undergoing an intensive ‘trial by media’ it’s unlikely he’ll see the inside of a courtroom anytime soon.

Speaking to NBC, Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson said this week that  even if the claims had merit, the time for taking action had long gone.

“All of this might have very well happened, but this was years ago, and we have something called a statute of limitation, which means you have to bring the criminal charges or the lawsuit within a certain period of time.”

“That time is pretty much long past.”

Read: This Bill Cosby TV caption fail shows why it’s important to proofread

Read: NBC cancels new sitcom as ANOTHER Cosby sex-abuse claim emerges

About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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