As a chorus of sexual assault accusations against Bill Cosby resounded this winter, some fans and famous friends stood by him, calling the allegations unproven attacks on a comedy icon.
But for some, the breaking point came this week, when newly unsealed court documents revealed that the comedian has admitted to giving at least one woman quaaludes before sex — the kind of behavior long suspected by women who have accused him of drugging and abusing them.
“Completely disgusted,” tweeted singer Jill Scott, who had vociferously defended her mentor. The Bounce TV and Centric networks stopped re-running “The Cosby Show,” apparently booting the 1980s comedy classic completely off TV, and Walt Disney World officials removed a statue of him from the Hollywood Studios theme park. Some fans who went to his recent performances, even as the allegations swirled, said they won’t go again.
Wayne Stanfield saw Cosby’s January show in Turlock, California, feeling there wasn’t enough proof to condemn a comic he’d grown up seeing as a good-guy star. But that changed after he learned that Cosby had said, under oath, that he’d given a powerful sedative to women he wanted to bed.
“Well, then, shame on him,” Stanfield said Tuesday.
To be sure, such prominent figures as Whoopi Goldberg and “Cosby Show” co-star Raven-Symone say they’re reserving judgment on Cosby, who was “America’s dad” to a generation and later an unabashed voice for his version of personal responsibility.
“You are still innocent until proven guilty,” and Cosby hasn’t been, Goldberg said on ABC’s “The View.” Co-host Raven-Symone also called for “proof, and then I’ll be able to give my judgment.”
Representatives for fellow “Cosby Show” stars Lisa Bonet, Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Phylicia Rashad — who has said she felt the allegations were part of a campaign to destroy Cosby’s legacy — didn’t immediately respond to inquiries about the developments.
Cosby, 77, hasn’t commented on the documents. They were kept secret for a decade until Monday, after The Associated Press went to court to get them released.
Cosby has never been charged with a crime and has repeatedly denied the allegations. Most of the sexual misconduct accusations that more than a dozen women have made against him happened too long ago for criminal charges.
Former suburban Philadelphia prosecutor Bruce Castor, who declined to bring charges when former Temple University basketball team employee Andrea Constand came forward a decade ago, said Tuesday that Cosby’s admissions in the newly unsealed documents didn’t amount to evidence of a sex crime. Castor is running again for his former job, and he said if elected, he’d review the documents to see whether Cosby committed perjury when speaking to investigators.
The documents revealed that during 2005 questioning in Constand’s later-settled sexual abuse lawsuit, Cosby acknowledged giving quaaludes to a 19-year-old woman before they had sex in Las Vegas in 1976, and he admitted giving the now-banned sedative to unidentified others.
His lawyers intervened before he could answer questions about how many women were given drugs and whether they knew it. His attorneys insisted that two of his accusers knew they were taking quaaludes from him, according to the documents.
Still, lawyers for Cosby’s accusers said his statements could bolster civil claims, and some of the women said they felt vindicated.
“It’s turned my life around” to hear doubters say they were wrong, said Joan Tarshis, who has accused Cosby of drugging and attacking her in 1969.
The AP generally doesn’t name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Constand and Tarshis have done.
To be sure, some people have long said they believed the accusations, which already had damaged Cosby’s image and career.
But when Ruth Flowers went to Cosby’s Baltimore show in March, she hadn’t made up her mind about whether the allegations were true. She’d wondered whether his accusers were out for money.
Now that his quaalude admission is known, she says she feels the women are getting the certainty they deserve. And she won’t be seeing Cosby again.
“I would like to know just why,” she said. “You have everything going for you — why?”
Associated Press writers Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, New York; Kathy Matheson in Norristown, Pennsylvania; David Bauder in New York City and Lynn Elber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.