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On Cosby, NBC chair says it takes '15, not 2' rape allegations to kill a show

MELBOURNE, FL - NOVEMBER 21:  Actor Bill Cosby performs at the King Center for the Performing Arts on November 21, 2014 in Melbourne, Florida.  (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - NOVEMBER 21: Actor Bill Cosby performs at the King Center for the Performing Arts on November 21, 2014 in Melbourne, Florida. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)
Gerardo Mora/Getty Images
  1. Bob Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment, explained why the network dropped a show that was going to star Bill Cosby at the Television Critics Association winter press tour.
  2. Jarrett Wieselman of Buzzfeed, whose question spurred the comments, claimed that, last summer, Greenblatt said the allegations did not concern him. At this event, Greenblatt denied he had said that. But if the reporter is correct, Greenblatt is reversing his earlier position.

  3. Greenblatt now explains that the allegations hit a critical mass. He said it took "15, not 2" allegations for the show to be pulled. But many of the allegations against Cosby have been known since 2005.
  4. "Over the summer, it didn't seem to be the sort of thing that was critical mass … When that many people come out and have similar complaints and it becomes such a tainted situation, there was no way that we could move forward with it." Greenblatt said.

What was supposed to happen

Bill Cosby was supposed to develop a new pilot with NBC this year.

Then, in November, NBC decided to pull the plug after dozens of women came forward accusing him of drugging and raping them. Now, around two months after the fact, Bob Greenblatt, Chairman of NBC Entertainment, is explaining why NBC made that choice.

In particular, he said that the network would not presume people were guilty without a court verdict, but that the allegations against Cosby reached "critical mass." When pressed by a reporter to clarify what that number of allegations would look like, Greenblatt said "15, not two."

But over a dozen of the allegations were known as of 2005, when the Cosby story first broke in the national media.

NBC's explanation

Greenblatt was asked about the Cosby fallout at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena. Press tours generally feature sessions with network executives, where they answer questions about ratings, overall strategy, and upcoming programming. Greenblatt's comments occurred in that context.

Greenblatt's answer came off as a bit defensive.

"He hasn't been proven guilty of anything," Greenblatt told reporters at the press conference. "When that many people come out and have similar complaints and it becomes such a tainted situation, there was no way that we could move forward with it."

Mostly, though, Greenblatt seemed relieved to no longer have to deal with questions on the matter. "I'm glad that we're out from under that," he said.

For a thorough timeline of the allegations against Cosby, go here.

Update: This story has been updated to reflect the name of the reporter who asked Greenblatt the question.