At this point, it's starting to feel like there's not a single person in Hollywood who doesn't have an opinion about the accusations of sexual assault and rape Bill Cosby, beloved TV father and comedian, has been facing since late 2014. Celebrities seem to come in two flavors: either they very determinedly try not to be in situations where they're asked to speak in regards to the rumors, such as Raven-Symoné of The Cosby Show and That's So Raven fame or, in their rush to speak out, they end up offending more people than they reach, such as the disappointing remarks made by Phylicia Rashad. The latest celebrity to speak out about Cosby is late night show host Jay Leno, and he stands among the few to give more sympathy to the victims than to the comedian.
"I don’t know why it’s so hard to believe women," said Leno during a Q&A at the NAPTE conference in Miami on Wednesday. "You to go Saudi Arabia and you need two women to testify against a man. Here you need 25." And Leno's words ring true, especially in an atmosphere where the testimonies and stories of those 25 women still isn't enough to convince many people of Cosby's guilt.
As many people as there are who try to communicate their disbelief in the most neutral way possible, by saying that they weren't there or that that's not the Cosby they know, there are as many people who outright dismiss all the women as liars or part of a conspiracy to tear the comedian down — ignoring the fact that these women are all strangers to one another and have nothing to gain by coming forward. Ignoring the fact that the statute of limitations on most of Cosby's alleged crimes has expired, so their stories at this point are just that. Stories.
So, yes, it's always nice when a celebrity speaks out in support of those brave women who took the risk to tell their stories while they had the public ear, who continue to tell their story despite so many other celebrities, and so many other fans, trying so hard to discredit them and support Cosby. But that's not the only thing that Leno had to say during his Q&A. He also, surprisingly, praised the way in which the story broke into the public zeitgeist (which, as a reminder, happened when comedian Hannibal Buress called Cosby a rapist during a skit that went viral a few days later):
I think this whole Cosby thing... Hannibal Buress started it. He's a stand-up comedian and he made a flat-out statement that reverberated around the world. If that had been on television, it would have been edited. But because somebody would put the news out raw and unfiltered — which I think is fantastic — it was a great thing.
To be fair, something about Leno's statement rubbed me the wrong way. I think it was the fact that he approved of the way that the Cosby story reached the public, while it's still a source of offense and shock for me that it took the words of a man to validate the tales of women that have repeatedly fallen on deaf ears since the early '00s. However, Leno has a valid point that's certainly worth defending. It is great that we live in a nation where the news can reach us all in its unfiltered, distilled, occasionally inaccurate but always raw and real form. Sure, that is one of the best and worst parts about living in America, as sometimes speed is prioritized over accuracy and sometimes the world feels the right to know things that might have been better left unknown, but the fact that a simple "joke" could have such an effect is very powerful.
As always, Cosby's statement on the sexual assault allegations via his lawyer remains the same. "Over the last several weeks, decade-old, discredited allegations against Mr. Cosby have resurfaced. The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true. Mr. Cosby does not intend to dignify these allegations with any comment. He would like to thank all his fans for the outpouring of support and assure them that, at age 77, he is doing his best work. There will be no further statement from Mr. Cosby or any of his representatives."
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