On July 6, the Associated Press reported that Bill Cosby testified in 2005 he had obtained Quaaludes to drug young women and had indeed dosed at least one woman. This admission, from a lawsuit that was settled in 2006, should move the Cosby controversy forward in a major way. Certain aspects of it just can’t be controversial anymore.
Since Cosby’s alleged practices of drugging women with sexual intentions came under new scrutiny last year—thanks in part to a Hannibal Buress comedy routine—there’s been an easy out for any of the comedian’s defenders. As accusers began to come forward in startling volume, those who believed in the Cosby’s innocence could plead that the comedy icon was being tried in the court of public opinion, rather than in a court of law, and that “outrage culture” was leading women to lodge charges that might or might not be true. Always implied, and sometimes stated, was the idea that Bill Cosby, a comedian known by millions of Cosby Show viewers as paternal, warm, and aspirational, was simply incapable of such deeds.
“This is about something else. This is about the obliteration of legacy,” his Cosby Show costar Phylicia Rashad said; the accusers were perceived as out to take down an icon. After all, it was the word of sometimes-anonymous accusers against the word of a legend.
This newly released testimony, clearly, doesn’t address each one of the accusers’ claims. But it puts an end to the idea that such claims were motivated by a desire to boost the accusers’ own profiles, or to take down a comedy hero, because Cosby reportedly admits culpability in his own words. Bill Cosby is, in fact, the sort of person who would do such a thing; he said so himself, in testimony he presumed would remain sealed post-settlement and that only became public through dogged reporting.
For those inclined to trust the preponderance of evidence, the fact that there was eventually definitive proof of Cosby’s behavior towards women comes as no surprise. What’s more surprising is that the man himself—one who allowed fans, costars, and family members to defend him for so long—had confessed his behavior in his own words. Cosby has only spoken publicly about the allegations against him in the vaguest of terms, leaving an opening for his defenders to read into his silence anything they wanted. That period of debate, in which Cosby’s level of culpability remained entirely in doubt, is now over. The question is whether, the heat of the Cosby scandal having died down as suddenly as it blew up, the public will still care.