Cosby Sexual Assault Allegations Have Similar Pattern Ari Shapiro speaks with Paul Farhi, media reporter for The Washington Post, about the newspaper's coverage of the rape and sexual assault allegations against comedian Bill Cosby.

Cosby Sexual Assault Allegations Have Similar Pattern

Cosby Sexual Assault Allegations Have Similar Pattern

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Ari Shapiro speaks with Paul Farhi, media reporter for The Washington Post, about the newspaper's coverage of the rape and sexual assault allegations against comedian Bill Cosby.


Theaters in Washington state, South Carolina and Connecticut are the latest venues to call off scheduled performances by Bill Cosby. At least 16 women have now accused the comedian of rape and sexual assault spanning decades, though that number keeps changing. This story raises complicated questions about the comedian's legacy, about rape culture, race and celebrity. The Washington Post published an opus on Cosby yesterday with lots of new details. Paul Farhi was one of the reporters on that story and joins us now. Welcome to the program.


SHAPIRO: Your story has details from lots of individual women who describe being assaulted by Cosby. How many of those allegations are new?

FARHI: We spoke with two women who had not previously come forward before. There, as you mentioned, are at least 16. But we spoke with two who had not been on the record previously.

SHAPIRO: And when you look at all of these stories side-by-side, what patterns emerge in the allegations against Cosby?

FARHI: Yes, that's the striking thing, is that in each case, the M.O., if you want to call it that, was the following. This was a mentoring relationship between Cosby and these women. They thought they were getting career advice. He would invite them to some a private meeting. He would give them a drink within minutes. They would feel immobilized. The next thing they knew, they were being assaulted.

SHAPIRO: And the vast majority of these women did not speak out at the time. Did they give similar reasons when they explained today why they didn't file a complaint?

FARHI: Yes, that's striking too. And again, these things go back to the mid-'60s. Back then - not that rape wasn't a crime; it certainly was - but perhaps the consciousness about it was not as elevated as it is now. And there was this fear that no one would believe their story. It wasn't until 2005 that a woman named Andrea Constand came forward. And so that was the beginning of this whole saga.

SHAPIRO: And yet, this story remained out of the public consciousness long after people started talking about it. Why do you think it took so long?

FARHI: Well, it did take off, at least in fits and starts. There were a number of publications, including The Washington Post, that referenced those accusations. It came. It went. And it seemed to die down until, say, October of this year, when the comedian Hannibal Buress put it into his routine. And then, there was a series of drip, drip, drip, which led to this explosion of stories and media interest. And The Washington Post did play a role in that. We ran a first-person essay by Barbara Bowman, who as a young woman in the 1980s, claimed that she was raped by Cosby.

SHAPIRO: And yet, in that essay, Barbara Bowman said it took a man speaking about this for it to take root in the public consciousness. And others have said white people didn't want to acknowledge that this black man who they turned into such an iconic hero, in fact, is accused of doing monstrous things. What do you make of all this?

FARHI: Well, the real nature of Cosby's career is that he was the original, or one of the great, crossover artists of his time. So in the early '60s, when black entertainers were in many ways marginalized, here is a guy who transcended race, that he told stories that were universal. And in some ways, he made white people feel good about their open-mindedness. I like Bill Cosby. Therefore, I can't be considered a racist in some way. So that was the legacy of Bill Cosby's career for decades and decades. So the denial that sets in to realize that he is alleged to be this monster, this criminal - it just completely messes with people's minds, black, white or otherwise. It's just very hard to imagine.

SHAPIRO: Over the weekend, he told Florida Today, I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn't have to answer to innuendos. People should fact-check, he said. People shouldn't have to go through that and shouldn't answer to innuendos. Paul Farhi, how do you respond to that?

FARHI: Well, people have fact-checked. We've gotten corroboration, at least contemporaneous to when these allegations were made, from people who heard these allegations from these accusers in real time, at the time. So we've done a lot of fact-checking. It's Cosby who needs to address it. It's Cosby who needs to stand up and say, this didn't happen and here is a full account of my behavior and my actions over this time. And until we get that, the suspicion, the cloud is going to be hanging around Cosby.

SHAPIRO: That's Paul Farhi, who covers media for The Washington Post, one of the co-authors of a major piece about Bill Cosby in Sunday's paper. Thanks.

FARHI: Thank you, Ari.

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