Rape allegations haunt Bill Cosby in the digital age

Todd Leopold and Ben Brumfield | 11/17/2014, 11 a.m.
Nasty allegations have been haunting one of America's most iconic comedians, a man with a reputation for moral wholesomeness. For ...
Bill Cosby as Cliff Huxtable on the "Cosby Show" (Photo courtesy/NBC)

— The Internet immediately reacted, but probably not in the way Cosby expected.

"Claire, have you seen my ... nevermind, found my raping hat!" tweeted Trill Withers over the cap picture.

"My two favorite things (--) Jell-O pudding & rape," tweeted E.J. Coughlin over a photo of Cosby smiling.

By nightfall, Cosby's original tweet had been pulled from the Web. But in the social media age, the rape allegations have stubbornly remained in the open.

In late October, comedian Hannibal Buress bluntly attacked what he perceived as Cosby's "smuggest old black man public persona" by saying, "Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches. 'I don't curse onstage.' Well, yeah, you're (a) rapist, so I'll take you saying lots of mf**s on 'Bill Cosby: Himself' if you weren't a rapist."

A couple weeks later, Cosby was booked on Queen Latifah's talk show, but the allegations reportedly gave the staff "cold feet," according to TMZ. Cosby's booking was "postponed at his request," the website reported in an addendum. (Cosby did do interviews with Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon without incident.)

For years, Cosby has denied the rape allegations. In February, after Newsweek ran an interview with one of the purported victims, Tamara Green, Cosby's representative said, "This is a 10-year-old, discredited accusation that proved to be nothing at the time, and is still nothing."

Nine years ago, when Green was interviewed by Matt Lauer on the "Today" show, his lawyer issued a statement: "Miss Green's allegations are absolutely false. Mr. Cosby does not know the name Tamara Green or (maiden name) Tamara Lucier and the incident she describes did not happen. The fact that she may have repeated this story to others is not corroboration."

In the case of Andrea Constand, who sued Cosby in 2005 over an incident the year before, Cosby says the sex was consensual.

Lawsuit airs allegations

At the time of Constand's lawsuit, Cosby had been in the news for a sexual affair once before. In 1997, a woman named Autumn Jackson claimed to be Cosby's love child. Cosby admitted to a relationship with Jackson's mother but denied paternity. Jackson was later convicted of extortion.

However, it wasn't until Constand's lawsuit in 2005 that the comedian was accused of rape.

Constand, a staffer for Temple University's women's basketball team, said in her suit that Cosby -- a Temple alum -- had become a mentor to her in the months since they met in 2002. In early 2004, he invited her to his house in suburban Philadelphia. Constand told Cosby she was feeling stressed and Cosby gave her three blue pills, which he described as "herbal medication," according to her suit, which was posted on The Smoking Gun.

Then, her "knees began to shake, her limbs felt immobile, she felt dizzy and weak, and she began to feel only barely conscious," the suit continued. Cosby then gave her another drug, she said, and led her to the sofa, where she says she was sexually molested.