3 Dumb Arguments People Use in Defense of Bill Cosby (and a decent one)

It’s gotten to where I cannot click on the “Bill Cosby is trending now!” links on Facebook. Are you with me? If you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be surprised to find out that one of the cases of Bill Cosby’s alleged sexual assault of a woman has gone to criminal court. Evidently the statute of limitations hasn’t expired on this one. He has been arrested and put on $1M bail. It’s gotten serious, folks.

Unfortunately, what hasn’t gotten serious is the discourse on the internet concerning this issue. At least I hope it isn’t serious. Here is a compilation of what I consider to be the biggest BS arguments I’ve read so far on the issue. There are others out there, but these are the ones I’m tired of hearing.

I. “Bill Cosby is innocent until proven guilty.”

One of the cornerstones of any civilized justice system is the presumption of innocence on the part of the accused. It is generally agreed in most ethic circles that it is better to let a guilty man go free than to punish an innocent one. This is fair. In the case of Bill, I have no problem presuming that he is innocent of the crime of which he is currently being arraigned. If that’s the point people are trying to make, then so be it.

However, I have personally never heard this argument used to refer to Bill’s current court case. Usually people are still speaking in general terms about Bill as a person, in nebulous terms. Folks, even if he is acquitted of the charge he’s currently dealing with, that’s one case. Out of… what is it now, 30? We will never know the truth on any of the other cases because of Statute of Limitation laws. We don’t have the luxury of presuming innocence or guilt in those cases. But you know what? Even assuming that EVERY ONE of those cases would have resulted in a “not guity” verdict, there is still the little matter of that pesky deposition. It is a matter of court record that Bill has admitted to purchasing date-rape drugs and intended to use them for that purpose¹. Is Bill guilty of any of these 30 rapes? Maybe, maybe not. Is he a predator? Court documents pretty clearly say yes. Whether he’s a successful predator or not is irrelevant.

Boz Tchividjian from G.R.A.C.E. has written an excellent article on this subject. He mostly writes in reference to child sexual assault in the Church, but this article is appropriate to this discussion.

II. “If these women were really raped, why did they wait 20–30 years before saying anything about it? They’re lying.”

Well, you just answered your own question right there. Who would have believed them? What would have been the consequences on them for reporting this? Someone who uses this argument really doesn’t understand how America treats the crime of rape. Do you honestly believe that a woman would have been able to go to police and accuse a successful television star and comedian of raping them? Do you really think they would have been believed? I’m afraid that’s not how it worked back then, and it still isn’t. A woman risks shame, ridicule, condescension and even open hostility for reporting… let this sink in… a crime committed AGAINST HER. For many of these women, the presumption of innocence on the part of their alleged rapist would have translated directly into a presumption of their guilt. Take all of this and add on the fact that the man they would be accusing was Cliff Huxtable, the shining beacon of family values for an entire generation. The deck was stacked. It took a lot of courage to come forward. Why are they just now surfacing? Because the first one risked everything and made it easier for the rest.

Here’s a good article on the subject.

III. “Bill is in his 80s. Does he really need to go through this? Does he need this on his record?”

Good question. Here are some more: Did those 30 women deserve to go through rape? Did they really need the mark of sexual assault on their psyche for decades? Did they really need to be shocked as the man who violated their bodies stood in front of crowds and cameras and lectured people about morality?

In short, yes. If Bill is convicted, he owes his victim(s) this. He spent 20–30 years living a double life off his privilege as a publicly respected celebrity while these women dealt with the mental and emotional fallout of their lives. The predator stole those years. He needs to pay them back.

There is an argument that deserves special mention, however. “The only reason this has gone this far is because he’s black.”

As someone who is currently doing everything he can² to encourage the prosecution of crimes by at least 3 old white men in the religious community, I’m tempted to be offended by this argument. However, I can definitely see the point. There has been extremely unbalanced treatment between whites and blacks (and other minority groups) when it comes to our law enforcement and the American legal system. The most recent example I can think of is the VanilaISIS incident in Portland. So if someone uses this argument, especially if they’re a part of the black community, I’ll respect the experience behind it. If you’ll permit me, though, I’d like to point out a few points of opinion.

The tenacity with which people pursue justice for Bill’s victims is, in my mind, not so much due to his race but to his status as a “family values” icon. I don’t speak for everybody, obviously, but I do think that I am a part of a movement of people who are tired of inauthentic hypocrisy in moral leadership. I refuse to point to predators and morally bankrupt people and tell my children to listen to their condescending moral lessons. It’s becoming more and more evident that this is how the utra-conservative branches of the protestant church have operated for the last 50 years. No more. Is it easier because he is black? I won’t deny that. It has been extremely difficult to pursue justice in the white cases I mentioned above, and I do think this is a factor. But I also think there are other factors involved.

¹ One of many reports on the subject: http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/07/us/bill-cosby-quaaludes-sexual-assault-allegations/

² (which admittedly isn’t much beyond blogging to change public opinion)


Originally published at christianfeministdaddy.com on January 4, 2016.