Following a weekend in which it was reported that Bill Cosby canceled appearances on both David Letterman’s and Queen Latifah’s respective talk shows, and NPR hosted an interview where he responded to sexual assault allegations by silently shaking his head—plus nearly a month of sickening feelings exacerbated by disastrous PR—the comedian has finally commented on the growing controversy. In a statement released through his lawyer, Cosby silently shook his head at the entire world:
Over the last several weeks, decade-old, discredited allegations against Mr. Cosby have resurfaced. The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true. Mr. Cosby does not intend to dignify these allegations with any comment. He would like to thank all his fans for the outpouring of support and assure them that, at age 77, he is doing his best work. There will be no further statement from Mr. Cosby or any of his representatives.
- John P. Schmitt, lawyer for Bill Cosby
As The New York Times notes, Schmitt did not say how, exactly, those allegations have been discredited. Aside from the occasional informal denial, the only official response to any of the allegations was the out-of-court settlement reached with one of his accusers, Andrea Costand, in 2005. Had it gone to trial, that suit would have included the testimony of 13 women making similar charges. He also does not say how, exactly, Cosby is at this moment “doing his best work.”
And now Cosby has at least one more allegation not to dignify: Joan Tarshis, a former actress, journalist, and music publicist, has written an essay for Hollywood Elsewhere in which she claims that Cosby drugged and raped her twice in 1969, when she was 19 years old. Tarshis’ public account follows that of Barbara Bowman, who recently wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post in which she alleges that Cosby raped her when she was a teenager in the 1980s, asking why it took Hannibal Buress making a joke about it for anyone to take her seriously. All told, Tarshis makes 14 women who have come forward to accuse Cosby of sexual assault, none of whom he will acknowledge.
In Tarshis’ retelling, she says she met Cosby through friends while she was working as a comedy writer. Cosby asked her to start visiting the set of The Bill Cosby Show, and that’s where things took a dismayingly familiar turn:
One day he asked me to stay after the shooting and work on some material with him. I was even more flattered and thought this would help move my writing career along. In his bungalow he made me a redeye [a Bloody Mary–beer cocktail], and I began to tell him about the earthquake Los Angeles had just had and the sound it made. He liked my ideas for an earthquake bit.
The next thing I remember was coming to on his couch while being undressed. Through the haze I thought I was being clever when I told him I had an infection and he would catch it and his wife would know he had sex with someone. But he just found another orifice to use. I was sickened by what was happening to me and shocked that this man I had idolized was now raping me. Of course I told no one.
Tarshis says the second incident took place later that year, after she’d returned home to her family in New York. Cosby called and spoke with her mother, extending an invitation through her for Tarshis to come see him perform at the Westbury Music Theater. Tarshis says she didn’t know how to refuse the invitation without telling her starstruck parents what had happened. So she went:
He sent a limo to pick me up and I was dropped off at the Sherry Netherland Hotel and went up to his suite. I remember noticing that his leather shaving kit was filled with bottles of pills, and thinking that this seemed odd. He was, of course, very friendly and I, of course, was very uncomfortable. He made me a redeye, and I, being nervous and dealing at the time with an alcohol problem (I’ve been in recovery since 1988), drank it. In the car I had something else to drink, but was already beginning to feel a bit stoned.
“When we got to Westbury and he went on, there was no seat for me. I stood in the back of the theater with his chauffeur, feeling insulted that I wasn’t respected enough to be given a reserved seat. But soon after, I remember feeling very, very stoned and asking his chauffeur to take me back to the car. I was having trouble standing up. The next thing I remember was waking up in his bed back at the Sherry, naked. I remember thinking ‘You old shit, I guess you got me this time, but it’s the last time you’ll ever see me.’”
Tarshis says she spent 20 years in silence, not knowing how to tell anyone. In her essay, she declares, “As more and more of his rape victims have come forward, all telling similar stories, the time is right to join them.”
While Cosby remains officially silent, plenty of others are now talking about whether he can ever move past this—most immediately with the new family sitcom that was previously a lock for NBC’s 2015 schedule. While Netflix is still set on debuting Cosby’s new standup special just in time for a very awkward Thanksgiving, Deadline reports that the show that would star Cosby as a grandfather sharing his wisdom with a multigenerational brood is likely in jeopardy, as the network considers whether maybe people will still remember that Cosby received multiple, graphically detailed accusations of rape all the way into next year.