photo courtesy The World Affairs Council of Philadelphia
If Bill Cosby wants his day in court to clear himself of the allegations that he abused dozens of women over the course of decades, he won’t have a hard time getting it.
One of the women who claim that Cosby drugged and then sexually assaulted them sued him for defamation last year, after he allegedly called her a liar in public statements. Six other women have also joined the suit as Cosby accused them of making up similar stories in which he drugged and then raped or molested them, often after meetings in which he styled himself as their mentor or advocate.
So if Cosby really wanted to defend his honor, it was not necessary to countersue these seven women, claiming that it was they who had defamed him, as well as costing him valuable endorsements and business opportunities.
That is why Cosby’s suit ought not to be viewed as he frames it: an effort to clear his name. It is, instead, the effort of a wealthy, still-powerful and deeply entitled man to squash the women who finally rose against his intimidation to challenge his public persona.
According to Reuters, more than 50 women have come forward to accuse the comedian, though Cosby has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and has never been criminally charged. Many of the allegations center on events that took place decades ago, well beyond the statute of limitations. This summer, New York Magazine published the stories of 35 of these women, highlighting the similarities in their accounts and the length of time over which the alleged behavior occurred.
As the allegations drew more and more public attention, Cosby at first refused to engage with the story at all, stonewalling reporters who tried to ask questions related to the accusations regarding his conduct. In some cases, including that of one of the women who is suing him, Cosby or his representatives went farther and positively denied that the events his accusers described occurred. Prior to his countersuit, Cosby tried - and failed - to get the defamation case dismissed outright.
Now that it is clear that the story will not simply go away on its own, Cosby has finally spoken up. Or at least his lawyer has. In a press statement announcing the countersuit, the entertainer’s attorney said that Cosby denies having drugged or sexually assaulted any of the seven women at issue, claiming that each of them “maliciously and knowingly published multiple false statements and accusations from Fall 2014 through the current day in an effort to cause damage to Mr. Cosby’s reputation and extract financial gains.”
As a public figure, Cosby has virtually no chance of winning his lawsuit, a fact of which he - and his attorneys - are without doubt well aware. Cosby would have to prove not only that the allegations against him were false, but that the women making these statements positively knew them to be false at the time they made them.
If Cosby faced only one, or even a couple of accusers, this scenario might be at least plausible. Against dozens, it is not. And that is before considering that, in a 2005 deposition, Cosby acknowledged that he had obtained sedatives to give to women in order to have sex with them.
The purpose of Cosby’s current lawsuit, as with every other interaction he is known to have had with his accusers, is to bring power and pressure to bear in order to get what he wants. It was abusive in the past. It is delusional in the present.
There is no way for Cosby to retrieve the public persona in which he posed for many years. The only way to make amends would be, in fact, to actually try to make amends. But that is not the Bill Cosby way, as has become all too clear to those he has let down.