BAD GUYS

It’s Not Just Cosby: Hollywood’s Long List of Male Scumbags

It took a lot to make the public and entertainment industry remember the allegations against Dr. Huxtable. Why have we forgotten about everyone from Bill Murray to John Lennon, too?

11.19.14 10:45 AM ET

“I wonder how he sleeps at night.”

That’s what Barbara Bowman said about legendary comedian Bill Cosby during an interview on HuffPost Live last Friday. Bowman had just written an op-ed for TheWashington Post detailing alleged sexual assaults by Cosby in the mid-1980s.

“[There was the time] in Atlantic City, which was the final incident, where he came straight out and attacked me in his suite and tried to rape me and tried to tear off my clothes and he was trying to tear off his belt buckle and his pants,” the 47-year-old actress recounted. “I was screaming and yelling and scratching and wrestling to get away from him, and at one point he just got angry and viciously mad and threw me out.”

Bowman is one of over a dozen women who has accused Cosby of sexual assault over the years. Cosby is frequently listed among the greatest comedians of all time. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush. And there is, of course, Cliff Huxtable and that string of delightful Jell-O commercials:

These accusations against the 77-year-old comic are not—for the most part—actually news, per se. They’ve been around for a long time, having been aired in several prominent news and entertainment outlets. “Basically nobody wanted to live in a world where Bill Cosby was a sexual predator,” Tom Scocca wrote at Gawker back in February. “It was too much to handle.”

The reason this has reentered the news cycle is because comedian Hannibal Buress called Cosby a rapist on-stage in October. That set off the renewed scrutiny and claims of assault.

Regardless of why this has emerged as big news yet again, it is extremely important that it has. The rich and powerful shouldn’t be allowed to duck a tide of rape allegations, and that includes beloved, family-friendly household names. But Bill Cosby is far from the only famous man who has been accused of sexual assault, rape, or violence against women. And it’s astounding how many of them have been gift-wrapped a free pass from an adoring public.

Mike Tyson is a convicted rapist, and he now stars as a loveable cartoon TV detective. Roman Polanski raped a 13-year-old and has since won an Oscar to a standing ovation. Sean Connery is the celebrated embodiment of rugged cool, who has openly championed beating women in order to keep ’em in line. Bill Murray has been accused by his ex-wife of repeated, brutal physical abuse. Rick James was arrested for torturing and sexually abusing a woman for three days straight, only to have his image rehabilitated by Dave Chappelle years later. John Lennon is one of the most worshipped artists who has ever drawn breath, and he has copped to battering the shit out of women.

And then there’s Woody Allen—the other world-famous funnyman who recently came under fire for alleged horrific abuse.

It’s a sad reality that these men live in a world and thrive in a popular culture where too many of its patrons maintain a depressingly high threshold for indefensibility. One tragedy of the Cosby affair is that it took so damn long for these easily Google-able allegations to resurface in any meaningful way. Many were just eager to forget, absolve, or overlook serious accusations, simply because doing so would be hugely convenient.

Terrible crimes don’t automatically negate an artist or celebrity’s contribution to society—but rape, sex crimes, and brutalizing women are not hobbies that audiences should tolerate. It’s the sort of behavior that is now unacceptable in virtually all other forms of business. Surely, Hollywood should not be exempt from such a standard.