Bill Cosby In Crisis
November 20, 2014
November 20, 2014
To think it all started with a meme. The social media team for comedian and 1980s sitcom star Bill Cosby recently asked Twitter users to “meme” him by putting their own jokes around pictures of Cosby, then sharing them with their social media networks. While his team was likely expecting a million cracks about pudding pops, activists used the opportunity to make sexual assault allegations against Cosby go viral.
Well, it didn’t really start with a meme. It started with scores of women accusing comedian Bill Cosby of drugging and raping them over the past three decades. Fellow comedian Hannibal Buress brought those allegations to the public as a part of his act, calling Cosby a rapist. The opportunity presented by Cosby’s social media team just reignited interest from the mainstream media, creating a perfect public relations storm around the star that continues unabated.
The AP released video from a November 6th interview in which Cosby refused to answer questions about the allegations against him and, at the end of the interview, asked the AP not to air his refusal to discuss the allegations. He refused to address the issue on NPR’s Weekend Edition. Supermodel Janice Dickinson has come forward, saying she was assaulted by Cosby. One of the child stars of The Cosby Show has had to address internet rumors she was also a victim.
The meme that has helped destroy Cosby’s reputation was part of a comeback tour, which has quickly unraveled in the aftermath of “meme me.” Netflix has said it won’t show a comedy special starring Cosby previously scheduled for release this month. NBC has dropped a new Cosby sitcom that was in development. TV Land has even pulled reruns of ‘80s staple The Cosby Show. GQ went so far to publish a piece titled “Bill Cosby Is Over.”
It is hard to see how Cosby can recover. For 30 years or more, his entire brand has been built on him being the family man. But during that same timeframe, numerous women allege he drugged and raped them, or took advantage of them when they were under the influence of drugs they took themselves. This behavior is irreconcilable with that image of the loving, wisecracking father figure on The Cosby Show.
The lesson here? No brand or persona is big enough to shake multiple allegations of behavior that goes against the very nature of the brand they’ve built over the course of decades. If he is guilty, there is still room for redemption if Cosby comes clean, admits fault, and promises change after years of reckless behavior. But after decades of out-of-court settlements and recorded attempts to silence the outlets that question him about those settlements, it’s unlikely Cosby will ever recover.