Bill Cosby And The #MeToo Movement

Sep 26, 2018
Originally published on September 26, 2018 9:29 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Bill Cosby walked out of court yesterday wearing suspenders and handcuffs. A judge sentenced him to three to 10 years. He'd been convicted of aggravated indecent assault for attacking former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004. Other women who had accused him of assaults were outside the courtroom with their attorney Gloria Allred, who spoke with MSNBC.

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GLORIA ALLRED: It's important that the criminal justice system has finally worked on behalf of a victim and that women's words mattered and were valued.

INSKEEP: NPR TV critic Eric Deggans is with us.

Hi there, Eric.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Thank you.

INSKEEP: So we heard what Gloria Allred had to say about the meaning of this conviction. What does it mean to you that we have the first high-profile conviction of a man who's been accused of multiple crimes? And this is - when I say first high-profile, I mean in the #MeToo era.

DEGGANS: Yeah. It certainly feels like a page has turned regarding how America reacts to these kinds of allegations. But I think we got to remember that it took more than 10 years, dozens of accusations and a prosecution that ended in a mistrial before we got this trial that brought Cosby's conviction, so just a little bit of background. You know, Constand went to police in 2005, but they decided not to prosecute, so she sued him.

When the lawsuit was settled, it seemed like America kind of got some kind of cultural amnesia and people, like, forgot about what happened. And then when Cosby tried to mount a comeback in 2014, the stand-up comic Hannibal Buress did this bit about him that became a viral video where he talked about how Cosby couldn't lecture people about morality because he had these allegations in his past. And that led other women to come forward, and eventually, some 60 women shared similar stories. So, you know, today, we look at somebody like, say, CBS CEO Les Moonves...

INSKEEP: Yeah.

DEGGANS: ...Who had to step down when there were allegations made about his sexual misconduct in the past. And the story - you get the sense that stories like these are coming out, they're being examined in a new light and people are taking action.

INSKEEP: What did Andrea Constand say as Cosby was being sentenced?

DEGGANS: Well, she spoke briefly during the Monday part of the sentencing, but she released a longer victim impact statement, and it was very profound. I mean, she wrote about how she couldn't eat or sleep after the assault. She endured, quote, "psychological, emotional and financial bullying" from Cosby and his legal team during the civil suit. She talked about the pain of having her character challenged during the prosecutions. She wrote, quote, "Bill Cosby took my beautiful, healthy young spirit and crushed it." But now she's become this instrument through which other women who've accused Cosby can feel some measure of justice.

INSKEEP: So we know that his spokesman is making the opposite statement, saying that he has been a great civil rights leader, a role model for men and boys for decades and that this is very unfair what's happening to him. But I want to ask you, Eric Deggans - we do have someone who, effectively, was familiar in millions of people's living rooms - might as well have been in millions of people's living rooms for decades. What's it mean that he's been convicted now and he's going to prison? He is in prison.

DEGGANS: Yeah. It's a bitter end to a pioneering, towering career. I mean - and it's interesting. Like, Cosby's status as a hero almost kind of feels generational in a way, especially among the African-American community. You know, he's 81 years old. Younger black folks may have less of an attachment to him because he hadn't been as potent a force in show business in recent years.

I'm a member of the TV Critics Association. And we announced Tuesday that we were taking back a Career Achievement Award that we gave him in 2002, a recognition of what was happening here. This conviction has decimated his legacy as a pioneer in show business and has forced people to accept two realities. Somebody who was one of the world's most successful entertainers and kind of an example to people in the black community about achievement is also a convicted sex offender who's serving a jail sentence.

INSKEEP: NPR's Eric Deggans, thanks.

DEGGANS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.