Ben's Chili Bowl Erases Bill Cosby From Its Black Icons Mural
A landmark restaurant in Washington, D.C. has revealed an update to a mural outside its establishment that features prominent black figures — an update that excludes Bill Cosby. Outside Ben's Chili Bowl, the famous mural now features the likes of Barack and Michelle Obama, Prince, Harriet Tubman, and other historical black icons. According to CNN, Cosby is the only one of more than a dozen original mural subjects who is not included in the updated version.
The painting was originally unveiled in 2012, with Cosby in attendance at the unveiling ceremony. CNN reported that Cosby has been a loyal supporter of Ben's since his days in the Navy, and he's the only customer there who eats for free, besides the Obamas.
"He's been coming since '59, and he's been the most ardent and faithful supporter all these years," Virginia Ali, co-founder of the restaurant with her husband Ben, told CNN in 2013. "As he grew, he kind of took the Chili Bowl along with him."
Cosby's once impeccable public persona has been decimated in the years since the mural was first put up. More than 50 women have come forward to accuse the former comedian of sexual misconduct. Cosby has repeatedly denied all accusations of the sort against him. The comedian has been criminally tried for allegations of drugging and sexual assault from only one woman so far — an encounter he insists was consensual — and the judge was forced to declare a mistrial after the jury failed to reach a consensus on a verdict.
However, according to the Ali family, Cosby's removal from the mural didn't have anything to do with his legal troubles — regular wear and tear was the culprit behind the new mural. "We did not do any type of protection layer on [the mural], so we noticed last year that the paint started chipping off," Vida Ali, the founders' daughter-in-law told CNN.
In Cosby's absence, muralist Aniekan Udofia, who also painted the original artwork, added several more D.C. icons to celebrate the restaurant's historic significance to the city and vice versa, including Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, comedian Dave Chappell, and actress Taraji P. Henson.
According to The Washington Post, customers voted earlier this year on which celebrities would be included in the new version of the mural. Virginia Ali told The Grio that Cosby didn't place within the top 16 celebrities who made it into the finished product. The serendipitous timing of the new painting means that Ben's loyals fans don't have to put up a fight to get Cosby removed from the wall, and according to the results of the online poll, most people weren't sad to see him go.