I was aware, in a very general way, of the stories surrounding Bill Cosby back in the early 1980s, when I was a kid.
A member of my family worked for General Foods, the makers of Jello. This family member was permitted to attend the filming of some commercials for Jello.
I was a huge Bill Cosby fan at the time -- I was still a kid -- and I thought how cool it would be to meet Bill Cosby. This was pre-Cosby Show days -- he, to me, was just the guy who made Fat Albert and had been on the Electric Company, and then he was the guy who sold Jello. But he was on TV, and he was a guy I could actually name from the TV, as opposed to a gazillion other actors whose names meant nothing to me.
And so, I sort of fished around for an invite to watch the taping of a commercial. I wasn't too overt about it, but I thought that it would be neat. And so, finally, I asked this family member if I could attend taping. I was just 12 years old. Here's what that family member told me:
"Look, I know you think that he's a really nice man, and that's what he plays on TV. But I've seen him on more than one occasion and he's a real jerk to women. He's married, but he always demands that he be given "girls on the side" which have been paid to be with him. And that's not the sort of man I want you around."
Its funny: it could all have been bullshit, but I didn't think it was. I was old enough to know what "paid to be with him" meant, and it was sort of stunning to me that, as a 12-year-old boy, I'd be imparted with this information. My relative could have just said, "Sorry, no kids on the set" or "Sorry, you'd miss school" or even "We'll see." The relative instead went out of his way to tell me something that was very direct, very "adult" for a 12-year-old kid, and forced me to look at Cosby in a whole different way. Like I say, I have no idea if any of it was true, its all hearsay, but my relative never took me to a commercial and never made any comment on the Cosby ads, which were selling the product his company made.
My relative never watched the Cosby show, so far as I can tell. He didn't talk about Cosby a lot, and but he always gave the impression he didn't like what he saw. Mhy relative was not a high-level person, so his opinion wasn't going to have any impact on an advertising campaign that was wildly successful.
But my relative made damn sure to warn me off, and to tell me something about the proper treatment of women by men, and to tell me not to admire Cosby too much. He never did this with football players who I got to meet through my relative, or with other actors and celebrities. And when the stories about Cosby's alleged sexual abuse came out, my relative just nodded and said he wasn't shocked at all.
I still like Bill Cosby's comedy routines. The Noah routine is awesome. The story about cocaine is great. The tale of the visit to the dentist makes me howl with laughter. But I believe that the various women speaking out about his sexual predation are telling the truth, because their stories match up with what I was told by a trusted relative many years ago.
No, I haven't spoken about this in the past. Why? I didn't start writing on Daily Kos until the last ten years, and I didn't think anyone gave a damn about the fact that I had any belief about a sexual assault that took place outside my presence. But today, Cosby through a lawyer said that the stories coming out about him are simply smears and lies, and the attack on the credibility of the accusers has begun in earnest.
This is my attempt, however, minor, to indicate that I believe the accusers, and give my reasons for doing so. I don't know if any of this matters; it certainly wouldn't be admissible in Court, but I am in a position to support (however modestly) the credibility of the claimants, and staying silent amounts to an acquiescence in the attacks upon them.