The Michel Martin Question I Didn’t Answer This Morning, and More On The Bill Cosby Scandal

On pointIn the segment on “Beverly Johnson And The Bill Cosby Scandal” I just completed for NPR’s “On Point” program, out of Boston with the magnificent Michel Martin hosting, I emulated the Sunday morning talk show guests I so revile for answering questions by making their own points that have little or no relevance to what was asked. Michel asked me, as the time left in the hour-long program was ticking down, what ethical obligations consumers—that is, the audience for his concerts, TV shows and albums—have regarding Cosby, in light of the rape allegations against him.

I was still stunned by the comments made by three callers, encompassing several ethically confused assertions that you know I would find annoying:

  • That the victims should not be coming forward so late;
  • That Cosby is “innocent until proven guilty” (GRRRRR…);
  • That it’s “easy” for women to make unsubstantiated allegations against celebrities, and
  • That there is a parallel between the allegations against Cosby and the Rolling Stone campus rape story.

That last one especially had my head threatening to explode, which would not be good for my relationship with NPR, so I think I can be forgiven for missing Michel’s query. Yes, the UVA rape allegation is exactly like the Cosby scandal, other than the fact that the accusers in Cosby’s case have come forward publicly while “Jackie” has not; that its two dozen (so far) alleged victims for Cosby and one in the UVA case; that one situation is a classic example of abuse of power, wealth and influence and the other is not; that Cosby settled one claim rather than air the allegations in a court of law; and that virtually every part of “Jackie” claim has failed to hold  up under scrutiny and investigation, whereas Cosby, the one individual who could offer evidence to counter the allegations against him, has done nothing but have spokesmen and lawyers issue blanket protests and denials.

Yup. Identical.

My answer to Michel should have been this:

“It’s up to Cosby fans, If they still can still laugh and cheer at Cosby’s nice guy schtick and “America’s Dad” persona knowing that he’s a serial rapist, fine: laughter is good, get it where you can. Personally, I can’t laugh at someone whom I know has engaged in horrific acts, hurt women who admired and trusted them, and by his own conduct left another cultural hero lying face-down in the mud. I can’t forgive it, I can’t get past it, and I’m certainly not going to keep laughing. this is no different from the NFL fans who keep wearing Ray Rice jerseys, or for that matter, Democratic women who continue to swoon over Bill Clinton. If they do, they either:

  • Can’t get over their cognitive dissonance, and at some level refuse to believe what cannot be rationally denied, or…
  • Don’t think the conduct involved—punching women, exploiting women, raping women—is worth getting upset about, or…
  • Buy the absurd personal/public dichotomy, and can still cheer wife-beatering athletes, star-struck intern-exploiting leaders, and raping comedians.

All of these are sad and impossible to justify, but they are common. Does the continued support of a Cosby ratify his conduct? Not in the eyes of his undeterred fans, but in the culture? Of course it does. If Bill Cosby’s career escapes relatively unscathed by this, and he is not held accountable by society, the verdict of the culture will be a particularly extreme version of The King’s Pass: if you are rich enough, powerful enough and seen as contributing enough to society, then you will be held to a lower standard, and can get away with, if not murder, serial rape.”

A few other notes regarding the show:

  • Michel Martin really was terrific. Her D.C. NPR program “Tell Me More” was recently cancelled; she is a superb interviewer and would upgrade any cable public affairs show immediately.
  • I heard, for the first time, a portion of Whoopie Goldberg’s cross-examination of Beverly Johnson on “The View.” Her questions were clearly intended to cast doubt on Johnson’s account. Bias makes us stupid, and Whoopie is no exception. She is loyal to fellow comic, and fellow African-American Cosby, and that loyalty even transcends respect and fairness to an African American woman who  has come forward as one of Cosby’s victims. Why? Because he is someone she admires, and has for most of her life–that bias colors her perception. She cannot accept the facts. This is why Cosby is an ethics corrupter, and a sinister one. Like Bill Clinton, he makes all of his admirers enablers and accomplices.
  • Johnson, meanwhile, is still frightened of crossing the racial loyalty lines. Martin, who is not, suggested that Whoopie sounded skeptical. Ya think??? But Johnson, wary of making another powerful enemy, answered that she didn’t detect that at all.
  • Johnson, in the interview with Martin before the panel weighed in, said that she was wary of accusing Cosby at a time when “black men were under attack.” Which victimized black men did she mention? Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown. That’s one more media validation of the dishonest narratives in these cases: Martin was targeted because he was black [Evidence: none.]; murdered [Evidence: none] and his killer was set free by a racist justice system. [ His killer was correctly set free by a system that requires guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.] Brown was profiled by a racist cop [Evidence: none]; harassed because of his color despite being gentle, law abiding and unarmed [Evidence: to the contrary, he had just committed a robbery and an assault, resisted arrest and tried to take a police officer’s gun]; and was executed with his hands up  [Evidence: he was shot in self defense as he charged the officer]. I don’t blame Michel for not correcting the record, for this was tangential to the topic at hand.  I wonder if Beverly is any relation to Dorian?

9 thoughts on “The Michel Martin Question I Didn’t Answer This Morning, and More On The Bill Cosby Scandal

    • Because, Noah, I’m sick of explaining how ignorant and stupid the way most people use it is, that’s why. As I wrote here

      When it comes to making assessments of a person’s character and that person having to accept the consequences of those assessments, a conviction isn’t necessary, as long as there is sufficient reason to believe the wrongful conduct took place. You have to be proven guilty in a court of law in order to receive criminal penalties from the state, but when the consequences are being fired, not hired, untrusted, shunned, or not being allowed to practice law in Louisiana, “innocent until proven guilty” is a non sequitur.

      You know, you can answer such questions yourself: see that “innocent until proven guilty” tag? Click on it, and you get all this.

      The earliest entry is this one, which concludes,

      “Innocent until proven guilty” has to do with state punishment, not logic and common sense. We don’t have to deny what our brains tell us just because we are obligated to respect Johnson’s rights in court. She isn’t really innocent. Innocent people—I think this is safe to say—never stuff $79,600 into their undergarments to hide the cash from the FBI, just as innocent people literally never are seen shooting the back of Abe Lincoln’s head, jumping to the stage and shouting, “Sic Semper Tyrannis!” Johnson may plead to a lesser charge, or turn state’s witness against on her husband, or get sprung by a dim-witted jury, but those things won’t make her innocent, or any more fit for office than she is right now.

      There is a difference between being fair and being stupid. The press has an obligation to make that distinction clear, if only to protect us from the Leslie Johnsons of the world.

      See, it really is proof of the civic ignorance of the public and the media. The phrase isn’t in the Constitution; there’s no law; it isn’t an ethical principle. Outside of the courtroom, it is utter nonsense. If you catch your wife in bed with another man, do you agree when she says, “now, now now, remember, I’m innocent until proven guilty in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt!” Of course not, because the issue isn’t sending her to jail, just like Cosby isn’t going to be sent to jail. The issue is making a reasoned judgment based on observable evidence.

      So GRRRRR means, “I am so goddamned sick of explaining this over and over again, and having to read or listen to people use it as if it is discovered truth when they are either inexcusably ignorant of their own legal system, or dumb as a box of hammers and incapable of critical thought. Any man who has had 24 women claim to be raped or assaulted by him in exactly the same manner over many decades and who has already paid off one of them to avoid a trial is guilty as hell, not innocent, and we don’t need a trial to prove it, we just need a brain.”

      Now, wouldn’t you prefer “GRRRRRRRR!”?

      • Because what they don’t realize is that “innocent until proven guilty” really means “can’t be punished by the State until the put on trial by the State and convicted by a Jury of his Peers”

    • It wasn’t syndicated by enough outlets around the country. Michel made an effort to cover issues with African-American interest and relevance, and NPR’s audience is very, very white. She’s great, and I though the show was terrific even before she started inviting me on (it began when I was in O magazine as one of their ethics/manners pundits.)

  1. So so sorry to hear Tell Me More is over. Michel Martin is fabulous – neat you got to work with her on set. She did her homework, asked the questions I wanted answered, deflected anger, prodded without bullying, brilliantly and precisely pressed when an interviewee tried to dodge a question, kept the conversation on point and well – you just do not get much better than that in a radio show interviewer. I occasionally thought I could sense what her opinion was on a matter, but then I’d question that because she characteristically asked questions all across the spectrum with the same intonation in her voice. Of course it didn’t hurt that her radio voice is like a mixture of soft velvet and smooth jazz. Just listened to her send off and it appears she will still be around NPR – I agree any program would be propped up with her on board.

  2. Wasn’t it Whoopi Goldberg who said Roman Polanski’s conduct wasn’t that bad because it wasn’t ‘rape rape’? I think Goldberg just feels that people in show business are so much better than normal people that as long as this happens to little people, it is OK. This is sort of like the celebrities and government officials who have concealed carry permits and/or armed bodyguards but want firearms banned for common people. They aren’t hypocrites, they just feel that they have superior rights and privileges to the rest of us.

  3. “◾That the victims should not be coming forward so late”

    I’m not sure if I’ve said this before, but there’s something to this. I realize that 40 years ago, it was a different time, and there’s a good chance that some, if not all of those women would not be believed. But. At some point… I’d like to think…. Maybe around girl seven or eight. Maybe someone would have been caught. Maybe he would have been caught. Maybe there would have been evidence to prosecute, maybe they could have saved 15, or 10, or 5, or 1 woman from being drugged and raped.

    So it’s a judgement call, I think. You’ve been raped. It’s tragic. There’s a good chance that if you come forward, it will hurt your career, it will almost certainly put you under scrutiny. You may not be believed. But it’s the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do because you might find justice. You might save another person. You’ll be showing that there is a risk that your abuser’s shit behavior will come back and bite him. Because it’s more likely that there will be physical or witness testimony the faster you report. And because Fuck Evil.

    And then, if once you’ve made that decision, and decided that the risks outweigh the possible good, you lose your opportunity to help those other women, you’ve removed or mitigated the potential loss of income, the statute of limitations runs out, the evidence becomes lost and the witnesses either forget or die… Then what’s the point? What’s the point in coming out now?

    Cosby gets egg on his face, and that’s all it is because of the large contingent of people unwilling to condemn without a court decision, he skirts responsibility and gets to lie back on his Scrooge McDuck-esque pile of money. the group of victims continued to grow until a point where it seems to have stopped… Either he figured out that rape was wrong, he became physically unable, or he realized that the times were changing and being caught was more and more likely. Regardless, not a single rape is averted. You get book deals, and TV and news time, sure…. But you also get all the stigmas of victimization, without the vindication of justice. At this point…. It’s cowardly, unfocused and almost pointless. But Fuck Evil?

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