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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bill Cosby faces growing chorus over sex abuse claims

This time it started with a stand-up comedy video that went viral and an ill-considered Twitter campaign.

Now Bill Cosby, oft-celebrated comedian and star of one of the highest-rated US television programmes in the 1980s, is being asked to once again publicly deny allegations that he committed multiple sexual assaults over the course of his career.

For the moment the comedian is only commenting through his lawyer.

"Over the last several weeks, decade-old, discredited allegations against Mr Cosby have resurfaced," writes Mr Cosby's lawyer, John P Schmidt, in a statement on Mr Cosby's website. "The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true. Mr Cosby does not intend to dignify these allegations with any comment."
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Only after a man, Hannibal Buress, called Bill Cosby a rapist in a comedy act last month did the public outcry begin in earnest”

Barbara Bowman The Washington Post

That much was readily apparent on Saturday, when Mr Cosby responded with silence to questions during a radio interview with NPR Weekend Edition host Scott Simon.

"This question gives me no pleasure, Mr Cosby, but there have been serious allegations raised about you in recent days," Simon said.

When Mr Cosby didn't speak, Simon continued: "You're shaking your head no. I'm in the news business. I have to ask the question. Do you have any response to those charges?"

When Mr Cosby again refused to reply, Simon said that he wanted to give the comedian a chance to give an answer to "people who love you".

The first allegations against Mr Cosby came to light in 2005, when two women publicly accused the comedian of drugging and sexually assaulting them while they were unconscious. One of the women, Andrea Constand, filed a civil lawsuit against Mr Cosby, which they settled out of court in November 2006.

In the ensuing years more women have come forward with similar stories - 14 total at this point - dating back to the 1970s, but the allegations didn't generate significant outcry until last month, when a short video clip of another comedian, Hannibal Buress, was posted on Phillymag.com and became an internet hit.

In his routine Mr Buress, who is also black, jokes about the allegations against Mr Cosby, who he says has the "smuggest old black man persona".

"Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches," he says.

Also in October the Daily Mail published a detailed account from one of Mr Cosby's accusers, Barbara Bowman, who says the comedian assaulted her multiple times in 1986, when she was a 17-year-old aspiring model.

The extent of the ongoing damage to Mr Cosby's reputation became clear on 10 November, when a message from Mr Cosby's official Twitter account asking his fans to write captions for photos of the comedian with the hashtag #cosbymeme was dominated by references to the rape accusations.

By that evening the original tweet and the program that allowed the creation of captioned pictures had been taken down.

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