Bill Cosby's moralising back to haunt him

Bill Cosby in a May 2015 photo.
Bill Cosby in a May 2015 photo. PHOTO: AFP

New York - Bill Cosby's forthright views on black parenting came back to haunt him this week when a United States judge called the comedian a "public moralist" who had lost his right to personal privacy in a 2005 civil sexual assault case.

The career of the once-beloved comedian from television's The Cosby Show is in tatters after more than 40 women came forward in the past year to accuse him of drugging and sexually assaulting them in incidents dating back decades.

For years, he was a sought-after speaker at graduation ceremonies and other college events across the US, giving dozens of speeches that amused and inspired his mostly young audiences.

Recordings of speeches from the 2000s reveal his different sides: the comedian, the avuncular father figure, the fierce moralist.

"I am worried about the class of 2003," he said in May of that year at Hampton University, addressing issues of drugs, alcohol and teenage pregnancies.

"Are you going to put up with the fact that we may just set the record for youngest grandmother?"

Such speeches highlight what United States District Judge Eduardo Robreno ruled was a "stark contrast" between Cosby's public persona and the serious assault allegations against him.

Robreno on Monday ordered the unsealing of testimony showing that Cosby, 77, had in 2005 admitted obtaining powerful Quaaludes sedatives with the intent of giving them to women he sought sex with.

Robreno wrote that Cosby had "donned the mantle of the public moralist and mounted the proverbial electronic or print soap box to volunteer his views on, among other things, childrearing, family life, education and crime".

Explaining his decision on Monday to unseal the 2005 testimony, Robreno said the difference between Cosby's private and public life was a matter of significant public interest.

The judge noted a widely publicised speech given by the comedian at a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) ceremony in Washington, D.C. in May 2004, in which he denounced irresponsible parenting, poor education and lax family values as reasons for crime and poverty in black communities.

"What is it with young girls getting after some girl who wants to still remain a virgin? Who are these sick black people and where did they come from and why haven't they been parented to shut up?" Cosby said to applause.

Three years later, he was inducted into the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame. An NAACP spokesman has declined to comment on the issue.

Cosby has not been criminally charged.

His attorneys have made no comment on the unsealed testimony.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2015, with the headline 'Bill Cosby's moralising back to haunt him'. Print Edition | Subscribe