We were wondering when it (or if) it would happen…
Recently, Ms. Rashad became one of a variety of celebrities reportedly speaking out on all the accusations surrounding famed comedian and America’s Dad, Bill Cosby in an exclusive interview with Roger Friedman for Showbiz 411,saying:
‘Forget these women. What you’re seeing is the destruction of a legacy. And I think it’s orchestrated. I don’t know why or who’s doing it, but it’s the legacy. And it’s a legacy that is so important to the culture.’
‘Someone is determined to keep Bill Cosby off TV…And it’s worked. All his contracts have been cancelled.
‘This show [The Cosby Show] represented America to the outside world. This was the American family. And now you’re seeing it being destroyed. Why?’
I’ve long admired actress Phylicia Rashad. Since the days of The Cosby Show I fantasized about being a modern-day “Claire”: an empowered woman with a high-powered career balancing a fulfilling family life.
Even off-screen Rashad exuded class, talent and excellence. Honestly, she was one of my celebrity patron saints – next to Queen Mother of Everything Great and Magnificent (Oprah Winfrey) and Angela Bassett (which, if she messes up this Lifetime biopic on Whitney Houston, she’s going to have to be taken off of her invisible pedestal…I’m not above it).
I was actually quite surprised by her remarks. And prayed silently that she would stay above the fray and remain silent on the matter (even if she felt her long-time colleague and friend was innocent).
On the other hand, I found myself disappointed in the remarks because long regarding Ms. Rashad as an advocate for women, I found it hard to believe she would dismiss the accounts of over a dozen women saying the same things.
I mean, there’s even this viral clip of The Cosby Show circulating around the internet showing a dialogue between Claire and Elvin. Claire sets Elvin straight about the roles of women and even in 2015, making all of us collectively yell, “YAASSSSS” at our computer screens.
There have been numerous pieces written about the sheer cognitive dissonance that occurred when news hit (again) that Bill Cosby had not one, not two, not even three…but over two dozen women (26 at last count) claiming he had drugged them, raped or assaulted them over the course of decades.
I get it.
He’s an icon.But how do you completely discount 26 women’s experiences? Granted, HER experience with Bill Cosby may not have been the same as these other 26 women. Allegedly drugging and raping women may not be characteristic of the Bill Cosby she knows and loves, but it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility.
He’s human. We’re all flawed. It’s possible.
And it’s disappointing that some of us have placed Bill Cosby and others so high up on a pedestal that they’re virtually incapable of doing any wrong. And when they do…we are incapable of believing it.
That’s exactly part of the reason why, according to RAINN, 68% of sexual assaults go unreported and 98% of rapists never spend one day in jail. Approximately every 107 seconds an American is sexually assaulted and the one doing the assaulting will likely never be held accountable.
Folks (especially women) who get sexually assaulted rarely speak up about it, because when they do, they’re met with a bevy of questions and critiques picking apart everything from what you wore to why you were in a certain place at a certain time to get assaulted to why you waited so long to speak up.
This is exactly what rape culture does. It silences the victim while allowing the criminal (yes…if you assault someone or rape them, you’re a criminal) to continue on with life with virtually no accountability.
Multiply instances like this by 1,000 when you’re talking about going up against a very powerful person in Hollywood (like Bill Cosby) and you’ve found yourself up against the rest of the world when really, you only desire to speak your truth and see the person that hurt you held accountable so that no one else, not even your worst enemy, has to go through the same thing.
It’s this vicious cycle we allow in our society that has to end. But it won’t if we keep seeing high-profile cases like these treated with such dismissal by those who have powerful platforms.
You can’t just Kanye Shrug off 26 women. You just can’t.
Celebrities often find themselves between a rock and a hard place when it comes to speaking out on issues like these – especially involving people they know or may be friends with.
It’s hard because as a celebrity in a culture that feeds itself on so much gossip (where it’s incredibly difficult to decipher whether said “tea” is lie or truth) and preoccupation with the famous lives of others, it’s almost impossible NOT to empathize with someone going through it in the media.
But that doesn’t mean you have to deny other people the right to talk about their experiences.
So, I’m sure right now all of social media is saying #ByePhylicia.
But I really think it’s entirely possible to remain “neutral” without bashing your friend, mentor, TV dad or TV husband in the media AND without completely dismissing what could be some very ugly yet possibly legitimate claims about that same friend or mentor.
Which brings me to Keshia Knight-Pulliam.
I thought it would be interesting to juxtapose the responses of two celebrities, two people who have worked with Bill Cosby in the past and two people who still may be friends with him.
Knight-Pulliam was recently fired from this season’s Celebrity Apprentice apparently because she refused to call up Bill Cosby to ask for money to help her team fund raise for a competition.
Of course, interviews following broached the question – the collective elephant in the room for any Cosby Show alum – about how she viewed the debacle Bill Cosby has found himself in.
When asked about the issue, Keshia reportedly said:
‘Honestly, that’s not the man I know.
All I can speak to is the man I know and I love the fact that he has been such an example [and] you can’t take away from the great that he has done, the millions and millions of dollars he has given back to colleges and education, and just what he did with The Cosby Show and how groundbreaking that was.
The Cosbys, we were the first family that no matter what race, religion, you saw yourself in. … At the end of the day they are allegations. … I don’t have that story to tell.’
Keshia has a VERY great PR person and/or she knows how to choose her words carefully so as not to categorically deny those 26 women the right to tell their stories without seemingly coming for Bill Cosby. She simply says that’s not the man she knows, talks about his great legacy and reiterates again how that’s not HER story. It’s not her story, but she’s not dismissing the other stories or ranting about how this is all a conspiracy to see his legacy tarnished.
See how that works, Phylicia?
What do you think? Do you agree with Phylicia Rashad…or nah?
UPDATE: According to a TV interview with ABC about her comments, Phylicia Rashad says she was misquoted and never said, “Forget those women.” She still maintains that the media attention around the Cosby allegations is not about the women, but instead about “something else.” Check out the video of her interview below.