Bill Cosby: The 'joke' that started the fire storm of accusations against him
Roughly four years ago, a routine by an up-and-coming comedian sparked a firestorm that has now resulted in the conviction of Bill Cosby on three counts of aggravated sexual assault.
On a stage in Philadelphia - Cosby's home town, a place that had proudly bestowed on him some of the highest honours it could - comedian Hannibal Buress took a crack in 2014 at the man frequently cited as “America’s dad”.
The joke would, as it turns out, have a dramatic effect, and help draw attention to the claims levelled at Cosby by up to 60 women, many of whom had come forward with accusations against a powerful man in entertainment, only to largely be ignored.
“Pull your pants up black people, I was on TV in the ‘80s,” Buress, a black man, said during the bit, referring to Cosby’s time as the lead actor in The Cosby Show, and to Cosby’s regular habit of telling black youth in America that the reason they lacked opportunity is because they were not behaving appropriately.
“Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby,” the joke continued, referring to several accusations against Cosby that had previously been aired but largely ignored publicly. “So turn the crazy down a couple notches.”
Buress then turned to the members of the audience who may not have believed him. Check it out for yourselves, he told them.
“Google ‘Bill Cosby rape,’” he said. “That … has more results than ‘Hannibal Buress.’”
Whether they did or not would end up being unimportant.
Days later, a short clip of the joke spread across the internet, bringing with it the attention of the national media, which was then watching the Cosby story intently as dozens of women came forward with their stories of Cosby assaulting them sexually. Some of the accusations had been publicly known previously, as Buress had noted when telling the crowd to Google it, but the sheer number of women accusing the comedian of assault saw for Cosby a swift plunge in reputation.
Cosby was convicted Thursday on three criminal charges, and faces up to 30 years in prison for the attacks.
The charges stemmed from accusations from just one of the women who came forward with their stories, and many of the women who have accused Cosby of attacks are unlikely to see their own day in court with the former actor and comedian as the statue of limitations has expired in many of the cases.
On Thusday, many of the women who have accused Cosby of assault crowded into the Norristown, Pennsylvania courthouse where Cosby was awaiting his verdict. Five other women who say they are Cosby's victims had been allowed to tell their stories during the trial.
"I want to see a serial rapist convicted," Heidi Thomas, one of the women who testified, said while on stand.
When the jury announced their determination that Cosby is guilty, the women did not laugh.
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