Scheduling Note: Cosby, Michel Martin, NPR, and Me

Beverly Johnson

Beverly Johnson

Beverly Johnson, the super-model whose Vanity Fair article about being drugged by Bill Cosby decades ago when she was summoned for an “audition,” will be a guest on the Boston NPR station, WBUR, as former “Tell Me More” host Michel Martin stands in. After Johnson, a panel will discuss various issues legal, ethical and cultural about the Cosby allegations, and I’m on it, along with Renee Graham, music and pop culture critic for NPR’s Here & Now. Op-ed contributor at the Boston Globe, and Debra Katz, partner at the law firm Katz, Marshall and Banks. You can catch up on some of the ethical implications of the Cosby mess here, and some more details about the show here. If you can get the show on the radio or web, you’ll hear it at 10 AM, E.S.T.,  this morning.

The comments so far on the “On Point” page are fascinating, especially this one, reacting to a another commenter who felt it was unfair to “pre-try” Cosby”

“I hear ya…But it could be important to point out, to others, that this individual is entitled to his day in court.The problem is that he’s an easy target, as a celebrity; and that, ironically, he has long held the image of being a Father Figure in our culture.I am not suggesting that I think he’s surely innocent. I simply think that it might be quite challenging for him to receive a Fair Trial.Yet another reason why Gossip and Rumor–of what ultimately constitutes pretrial publicity–should be disallowed by Media. Otherwise, individual liberties and rights, in my opinion, are not protected.”

My reactions;


2. Obviously the commenter doesn’t read Ethics Alarms.

3. He’s only “entitled to his day in court” if he’s prosecuted and faces criminal charges. He is not entitled to hold the mantle of sainted pop culture icon and wise family sage if he’s a rapist on the side, and since a formal trial is impossible thanks to Cosby’s success at intimidating his (alleged, alleged, right) victims, it is absurd to insist, as the commenter appears to think, that the public and media shouldn’t come to their own opinions based on facts as they are known.

4. There is no upcoming trial and thus one cannot term public examinations of the accusations “pre-trial publicity.” It’s called “making up one’s mind based on the best information available combined with logical thought.”

5. Cosby is anything but “an easy target.” He’s as difficult a target as I can imagine for someone trying to tar a powerful celebrity as a sexual abuser: why do you think he’s successfully fended of these accusations—and, perhaps, continued to drug and rape women—for so long?

6. A First Amendment brush-up is called for. In journalism, gossip and rumor, responsibly vetted, are indispensable to investigative journalism, and tracking down the truth, which powerful miscreants in business, politics and show business excel at hiding.

7. Over twenty women coming forward with similar accounts is not “gossip and rumor.” It is called evidence, and rather overwhelming evidence at that.

8. I would love to know if this same commenter has been participating in any “hands up!” protests, which, of course, requires publicly convicting a police officer of racism and murder based not on evidence, but on “pre-trial” rumor and gossip that was duly and correctly rejected by a grand jury as unreliable. Would I be surprised at such participation?


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