While activists and many in the mainstream media cheered the news that Bill Cosby had been criminally charged with sexual assault on Wednesday, fans of the comedian doubled down in their defense of him on social media.
Taking to Facebook pages with names like “We Stand with Cosby” and “Bill Cosby is innocent until proven guilty,” they vented their anger at 30-year-old Andrea Constand, the alleged victim whose case has resurfaced 10 years after she filed a civil suit accusing Cosby of sexually assaulting her. They railed against the other women—gold-diggers, they say—who have come forward with stories of sexual abuse decades after it allegedly occurred; at the biased media for declaring him guilty; at anyone who challenges their fevered conviction that he is innocent.
Indeed, Cosby is innocent until proven guilty. But for many Cosby loyalists, a guilty conviction would be a wrongful one—irrespective of what happens at trial.
John P. Burrows Jr., 53, proudly holds himself up as one of these loyalists. As long as there is no “physical” evidence that implicates Cosby (there is none in the Constand case filed in criminal court Wednesday), Burrows said he will stand by his man.
“I think he probably did have sex with some of these women,” Burrows, a veteran who lives in Washington state, told The Daily Beast.
But Burrows said he thinks the sex was consensual—that these women were “hangers-on” who are now seeking revenge for not getting the comedian’s undivided attention back then. “Knowing the nature of the entertainment business and the fact that these allegations are surfacing 10, 20, 30, 40 years later—if there was anything to be proven, they would have done so earlier,” he said.
Reisa Elmore, a 58-year-old part-time elementary school teacher in the Bay Area who has written extensive comments on a pro-Cosby Facebook page, said she believes Gloria Allred and “whatever feminist organization is backing her” are largely to blame for the Cosby smear campaign.
“I think he’s been railroaded and that Gloria Allred and her ilk are trying to shake him down for money,” Elmore said of the lawyer, who represents more than two dozen Cosby accusers.
Like Burrows, Elmore said she thinks Cosby “had a lot of groupies who he was just trying to please and make happy, and if he didn’t put a couple of thousand dollars in their tennis shoes, then years down the road they want to sue for a lot of money.”
Elmore said she considered Cosby an American icon—“an American treasure”—and a pioneer for comedians of all races.
The women who have accused him of sexual assault, Elmore said, were “a bunch of hippie girls who wanted to be part of his lifestyle back then, and they just feel stupid later that they didn’t get more out of it.”
No matter how the criminal case with Constand shakes out, Elmore “will not teach a child of any generation in the future that the icon Bill Cosby was a sexual predator. If he really was one, I don’t think he would have been as prolific of an entertainer as he was. He wouldn’t have had the time.”
As an argument for why Cosby couldn’t possibly have sexually assaulted women, that’s about as fantastically absurd as it gets.
Cosby’s legacy as a beloved comedian and civil-rights pioneer has protected him from sexual-assault allegations that have surfaced over the years. No one wanted to believe that Dr. Huxtable was a predator.
Cosby loyalists can’t possibly conceive the idea even now, after 46 women have claimed some form of sexual abuse—many coming forward in the last six months—and after a Pennsylvania district attorney filed criminal charges against Cosby.
For Elmore, Cosby is indistinguishable from the doting father he played on TV.
Similarly, for Charles Wilford Sr., a 49-year-old chef in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Cosby the activist cannot be reconciled with Cosby the rapist.
“He tried to get black men and black women back on track the way Martin Luther King Jr. wanted them to get back on track,” Wilford said. He likens the abuse accusations against Cosby to those against Michael Jackson.
“He was weird, don’t get me wrong,” Wilford said of Jackson. “But his music was all about love, and he loved children because he didn’t have a proper childhood himself. Michael Jackson beat those child sex-abuse charges, and I believe Bill Cosby will beat these charges as well.”
The creator of the “We Stand with Cosby” Facebook page, who asked to remain anonymous, is less of a Cosby fan than someone who believes men are more often falsely accused of sexual assault than not.
He’d known about the Cosby allegations for years, but he’s paid closer attention to them since last spring, around the same time that the Rolling Stone UVA gang rape story was revealed to be fabricated.
“Many of the accusers wouldn’t be able to practice law if they got law degrees because they’ve been convicted of fraud,” he told The Daily Beast, adding that the Constand case is nothing but a “he said, she said case.”
He’s right. But as my colleague Michael Daly noted, if the judge in Constand’s case considers the other allegations against Cosby, it’s their damning words—all 46 accusers—against his.