It’s no secret that especially in the U.S., there are often two forms of justice—one for the rich and famous, and one for the poor and common. Celebrities have commented over Bill Cosby’s presumed guilt or innocence (Whoopie Goldberg says there is no proof), just as the rest of us. I suspect, like the O.J. Simpson case, some will hold staunchly to their opinions no matter how Cosby fares.
I will not comment on Cosby’s guilt or innocence, but rather point out the consequences of becoming a public moralist. This is at the center of what happened this week when a judge decided to unseal public documents that pretty much shows Cosby holding the “smoking gun.” By his own admission, the comedian said he gave drugs to women before sex. Up to this point, at least 2 dozen women have come forward with similar stories. Not all claimed to have been raped, but drugs was usually somewhere in the picture. A common scenario was that Cosby befriended young, aspiring actresses or models, then gave them drugs (sometimes without their knowledge) and sexually assaulted them. Women complained of passing out, then waking up to find they had been raped, molested or had missing underwear.
This is what allegedly happened behind closed doors. Now, contrast this image to that of Cliff Huxtable, the character Cosby portrayed in “The Cosby Show.” The doctor and patriarch of an upper middle class black family became known as “America’s Dad,” transcending race. From this platform, he would later go on to write books and talk about fatherhood. He became increasingly passionate about black fathers and often criticized them for not stepping up and supporting their children. He was displeased about the state of younger generations of blacks and wanted them to assimilate more into mainstream society. He wanted them to “learn English” and “pull up their pants.” The Hip Hop generation was offensive and disrespectful to him, as it conflicted with his views of how proper black people should act.
Comedian Jimmie Walker, who worked with Cosby in the 1970s movie “Let’s Do It Again,” told CNN there was a rift between Cosby and younger black comedians. “He doesn’t respect their comedy,” Walker said. Black comics who looked up to Cosby were demonized for their language or raunchier subject matter. Cosby is a “clean” comedian, and because of this, has gained worldwide and intergenerational acceptance.
Regarding the allegations, Walker said Cosby’s womanizing was a well known fact. And while he still thinks Cosby is a comedic genius, he does not approve of his lofty moralistic attitude. Walker said there are two Cosby’s—“America’s dad” and the one loved by children who pitched Jello pudding—and the one who allegedly drugged and raped women.
The problem with Cosby is his overly moralistic, greater than thou attitude, which sets him up to be a hypocrite. We have seen this happen before with preachers and politicians. And when you move from becoming an entertainer to a social commentator, you had better check the skeletons in your own closet. Once you step out there and start pointing fingers, you must be willing to accept the consequences. This is what Judge Eduardo Robreno said when he made the choice to reveal the telling 2005 deposition.
While it’s a fact that celebrities often get away with more than ordinary folks, it’s also true that the more well known and moralistic you are, the greater your fall from grace.