By Edward McAllister and Jill Serjeant
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Bill Cosby’s forthright views on black parenting came back to haunt him this week when a U.S. judge called the comedian a “public moralist” who had lost the right of personal privacy in a 2005 civil sexual assault case.
The career of the once beloved comedian from TV’s “The Cosby Show” is in tatters after more than 40 women came forward in the past year to accuse him of drugging and sexually assaulting them in incidents dating back decades.
For years, Crosby was a sought-after speaker at graduation ceremonies and other college events across the United States, giving dozens of speeches that amused and inspired his mostly young audiences.
Recordings of speeches from the 2000s reveal different sides of Cosby: the comedian, the avuncular father figure, the fierce moralist.
“I am worried about the class of 2003,” Cosby said in May of that year at Hampton University, addressing issues of drugs, alcohol and teenage pregnancies. “Are you going to put up with the fact that we may just set the record for youngest grandmother?”
Such speeches highlight what U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno ruled was a “stark contrast” between Cosby’s public persona and the serious assault allegations against him.
Robreno on Monday ordered the unsealing of testimony showing that Cosby, now 77, had in 2005 admitted obtaining powerful Quaaludes sedatives with the intent of giving them to women he sought sex with.
Cosby has not been criminally charged and his attorneys have made no comment on the unsealed testimony.
PUBLIC SOAP BOX
At a speech at Hamilton University in October 2003, Cosby won over the crowd with “hilarious comedy” according to the University’s website, including a joke about how taking Novocain affects speech.
Robreno wrote that Cosby had “donned the mantle of the public moralist and mounted the proverbial electronic or print soap box to volunteer his views on, among other things, childrearing, family life, education and crime.”
Explaining his decision on Monday to unseal the 2005 testimony, Robreno said the difference between the comedian’s private and public life was a matter of significant public interest.
Judge Robreno noted a widely publicized speech given by Cosby at an NAACP awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., in May 2004 in which he denounced irresponsible parenting, poor education and lax family values as reasons for crime and poverty in black communities.
“What is it with young girls getting after some girl who wants to still remain a virgin. Who are these sick black people and where did they come from and why haven’t they been parented to shut up?” Crosby said to applause.
Three years later, Cosby was inducted into the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame, not just because of his fame as a comedian and actor.
Image Awards Chairperson Clayola Brown, announcing the honor, praised his “his outreach efforts, real life storytelling, emphasis on family values and encouragement for peace and love.”
An NAACP spokeswoman declined to comment on the issue.
Jamilah Lemieux, senior digital editor at Ebony, the nation’s oldest African-American lifestyle publication, said that even prior to the recent sex assault allegations, many in the black community had long broken their emotional ties to Cosby.
“His moralist identity is one that a lot of African-Americans took issue with. It’s one thing to advocate for images of black nuclear families on TV and another thing to speak negatively about poor black families and people who are facing challenges,” she said.
Lemieux said that for all Cosby’s philanthropic work at historically black colleges like Spelman College in Atlanta, and his alma mater Temple University in Philadelphia, she doubted whether he could now change the court of public opinion.
“The way he treated actual black people was not in line with the values that he promoted in his work,” she said.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant and Edward McAllister; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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