Plunging another stick into the icy-cold Jell-O pudding pop of the heart, the fall of Bill Cosby persists, necessitating yet another update on the story that has swaddled the comedian in so much ugliness, like a particularly ghastly sweater. On the heels of NBC and Netflix scrapping plans for new Cosby projects, now the allegations of sexual abuse are even affecting his past work: Yesterday, TV Land quietly pulled all episodes of The Cosby Show from its schedule, effective immediately. Meanwhile, all evidence of the series has been scrubbed from the channel’s website, a tangible expression of a society’s collective memories of Cosby as a lovable father figure. In their place, the poignant message: “We’re sorry, something went wrong.”
Those things continued to go wrong today, as another woman—Therese Serignese, a 57-year-old Florida nurse—has come to The Huffington Post to accuse Cosby of raping her when she was 19 years old, making her the seventh woman to do so publicly. Serignese says she had a chance encounter with Cosby in Las Vegas while he was performing at the Hilton in 1976, where he first approached her in the hotel gift shop, then had her escorted to his green room. She then tells a now all-too-familiar story of Cosby offering her pills, followed by a groggy realization that he was having sex with her.
Serignese also claims that she continued to have intermittent contact with Cosby—including allowing him to put her up in the Hilton penthouse “until he kicked her out after she had a pregnancy scare”—and even had another, apparently consensual sexual encounter with him in 1985. That relationship continued until well into the ’90s, when she accepted checks from him following a serious car accident. Nevertheless, she tells The Huffington Post that she remained angry about the 1976 incident, eventually becoming one of the 12 anonymous women who were ready to provide testimony in Andrea Costand’s 2005 suit against Cosby, which was settled out of court.
Cosby, of course, has not replied to this latest charge, though Cosby’s attorney, Marty Singer, has continued to go on the offensive against those who would report on it—or any of the allegations that have resurfaced in recent weeks. “You proceed at your peril,” Singer warned in a letter to BuzzFeed, after chastising the site for “disseminating the outrageous false story” set forward by Janice Dickinson, who claimed that Cosby had raped her in 1982. “If you recklessly publish the story instead of checking readily available information demonstrating its falsity, all those involved will be exposed to very substantial liability.”
As BuzzFeed notes, Singer has gained a reputation for taking on difficult celebrity clients and sending threatening letters as his first line of defense, distributing “menacing” missives on behalf of the likes of Charlie Sheen and John Travolta. (One such letter, sent in the midst of a lawsuit involving two reality show contestants squabbling over a broken restaurant partnership—and threatening to expose Famous Food host Mike Malin’s arrangement of “sexual liaisons with older men”—was characterized by a judge as “extortion.” Singer later beat that charge on appeal.)
While Singer does all of the aggressive guard dog work, Cosby himself has remained as silent as that initial NPR interview. And yesterday, the Associated Press released video of another interview that reveals the lengths to which Cosby has gone to stonewall journalists asking him about the allegations.
The talk, conducted on Nov. 6, was arranged with Cosby and his wife, Camille, around the same unveiling of an African art exhibit that the NPR interview covered, and led to the same pressing of a question on Hannibal Buress’ stand-up bit about the accusations. In response, Cosby shakes his head and replies, “No, no, we don’t answer that.”
“There is no response. There is no comment about that. And I’ll tell you why,” Cosby says. “I think you were told. I don’t want to compromise your integrity, but I don’t talk about it.” After the interview is over, Cosby—still on camera—asks, “Now can I get something from you, that none of that will be shown?” The host says he can’t promise that, but responds that Cosby didn’t actually say anything. Cosby replies:
I know I didn’t say anything, but I’m asking your integrity that since I didn’t want to say anything, but I did answer you in terms of I didn’t want to say anything, of what value would it have? [His publicist adds off camera, “I don’t think it has any value either.”] I would appreciate it if it was scuttled. I think if you want to consider yourself to be serious, that it will not appear anywhere… We thought, by the way, because it was AP, that it wasn’t necessary to go over that question with you… We thought AP had the integrity to not ask.
Cosby, arbiter of integrity, then tells another publicist that he needs to “get on the phone with [the reporter’s supervisor] immediately.”
The Associated Press said in a statement, “As the allegations gained increasing attention—the AP went back through the full video and made the decision to publish Cosby’s full reaction to questions about the claims. The interview was on record—the AP made no agreement to avoid questions about the allegations or to withhold publishing any of his comments at any time.”
The release of the video comes around the same time that reporter Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing in The Atlantic, expressed regrets about being cowed into not pushing harder on the allegations while writing about Cosby’s speaking tour on the “decline of morality in the black community.” Meanwhile, Radar Online has published audio taken from a 2005 interview with Cosby by The National Enquirer’s Barry Levine, in which Cosby said that reports about him contracting lawyers—these made in the midst of sexual assault charges from attorney Tamara Green—were “unfair.” He then lamented:
Nobody ever wishes for a situation [like this]. Nobody ever really wishes for that. Who really wants to put his or her family in a position of information coming out publicly that will cause great emotional stress, challenge? The choices that the family, friends have made in looking at him or her as a good person, a wonderful person, a person to be trusted? I guess that a celebrity trying to protect him or herself is not supposed to use every ounce of protection? But this is all about celebrity, period! Which means that the celebrity, period, should know better. It was a fair warning to the celebrity. Fair warning.
For Cosby, it seems that warning—sarcastically received or no—wasn’t especially heeded, as things only seem to be getting worse.