It initially appeared that Bill Cosby was wasting no time firming up his summer plans, after a jury couldn’t decide this month as to whether he drugged and sexually assaulted accuser Andrea Constand in 2004.
Shortly after the case against Cosby ended in a mistrial, Cosby spokespeople Andrew Wyatt and Ebonee Benson announced he would embark on a town hall tour across the country to educate young people on how to avoid being accused of sexual assault.
On Tuesday, Wyatt — the same person who announced Cosby’s plans on the air — released a statement on the comedian’s behalf stating that the plans were a no-go.
“The current propaganda that I am going to conduct a sexual assault tour is false,” Cosby said in a statement acquired by Variety. “Any further information about public plans will be given at the appropriate time.” According to Variety, Cosby’s attorney followed up, adding she would not advise him to speak on such matters, especially since prosecutors are looking to retry the case.
Nonetheless, last week during the interview, Wyatt and Benson defended their client, seemingly taking the outcome of the trial as a win. At the end of the interview, Wyatt announced the plans for the now-abandoned tour, with plans to come right to Birmingham.
“This is bigger than Bill Cosby. You know, this issue can affect any young person, especially young athletes of today,” Wyatt said. “They need to know what they’re facing when they’re hanging out and partying, when they’re doing certain things that they shouldn’t be doing, and it also affects, you know, married men.”
After the anchor interviewing Wyatt and Benson asked, “Is this sort of a ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ sort of thing?” Wyatt laughed nervously, and Benson interjected, reiterating the need for better education around sexual assault and its attendant statutes of limitations. That was a key point for Cosby’s legal team during his trial, since plaintiff Constand’s sexual assault allegation against Cosby stems from an incident that took place more than a decade ago, and was weeks shy of being too late to prosecute.
Benson noted that the statutes of limitations are being “extended” for victims of sexual assault, explaining that “this is why people need to be educated on, you know, a brush against a shoulder, anything at this point can be considered sexual assault, and it’s a good thing to be educated about the laws.”
Of course, these plans have since been shot down completely — they seemed so preposterous and tone-deaf. But the proposal of this plan’s mere existence was simply an extension of the rape culture–propagating, victim-discrediting defense that Cosby’s legal team used during his trial.
Cosby’s defense relied on discrediting Constand and framing the comedian’s relationship with her as a romantic indiscretion, not an assault
The entire interview, as well as Cosby’s defense team’s strategy during the trial, leaned heavily on how many “inconsistencies” were present in Constand’s case. Last weekend, a jury could not come to an agreement on whether Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted Constand, resulting in a mistrial.
Cosby’s attorneys, through cross-examination, attempted to discredit Constand, her mother, and any other witnesses who came forward. Cosby attorney Angela Agrusa questioned inconsistencies in Constand’s timeline of her encounters with Cosby, including details about how Constand and Cosby met, and how she had initially told police that her contact with Cosby was “rare and brief.” At one point during Constand’s testimony, the Guardian’s Molly Redden reported it was clear that Agrusa was attempting to imply that Constand’s relationship with Cosby was “romantic in nature,” since they had private dinners together:
“You were sitting by the fire. The room was dark. There was a nice mood,” Agrusa said, summarizing Constand’s 2005 statement to police.
“I don’t know what that means,” Constand said.
“The lights were dim and the fire was going,” Agrusa continued.
“I don’t really remember how dim the lights were, but I did have to eat my dinner,” Constand replied.
In addition to framing Constand and Cosby’s relationship as a consensual romantic affair, Cosby’s defense team also questioned the political motives of Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele. Benson and Wyatt followed suit in their interview. Steele won his seat in 2016 by campaigning against his predecessor, Bruce Castor, who decided not to pursue Constand’s case in 2005.
It’s not surprising that Cosby and his team have continued to try to shield the comedian from any sense of wrongdoing. But victim blaming in the form of discrediting Constand (as well as the other women who have accused Cosby) is just the latest display of how powerful men nearly always avoid being held accountable for their actions — Cosby even admitted in a 2005 deposition for a civil case that he had indeed drugged Constand.
At least in this moment, Cosby appears to be doing the right thing by revoking this tour. It’s a good thing since prosecutors in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, have already said they will retry the case, and Cosby’s attorney has now said this tour would be a bad idea. Sounds like solid advice.