Conspiracy claims surround Bill Cosby debate

Former co-star Phylicia Rashad says someone has an interest in keeping Cosby off the air

Lisa Respers France | 1/9/2015, 9:30 a.m.
Is somebody out to destroy the legacy of Bill Cosby?
Stars like "The Cosby Show" actress Phylicia Rashad helped honor Bill Cosby on Monday, October 26, 2009, during a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Cosby received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor after refusing to accept the award twice in the past." (Photo: Skip Nocciolo/CNN)

— Is somebody out to destroy the legacy of Bill Cosby?

Supporters have raised the specter of a campaign designed to topple the man who was one of Hollywood's most beloved stars and an inspiration to many.

READ MORE: Cosby breaks his silence

"We are talking about a legacy that inspired a generation of young people to consider and pursue higher education," his former "Cosby Show" co-star Phylicia Rashad told ABC in an interview that aired Wednesday night. "We're talking about a legacy that introduced and portrayed American culture in its diversity. It's difficult for me to watch this legacy be erased as if it never happened."

Rashad's concerns over that legacy have been reflected among those who believe the star is being railroaded.

"The Cosby scandal bears so many earmarks that are all-too-familiar to the black psyche: contempt for black success, the taboo of black men sleeping with white women, mixed with more contemporaneous issues such as the overzealous contempt for President Barack Obama in Red State America, and the last six months of civil unrest regarding the killing of unarmed black men at the hands of police," Stereo Williams wrote in a Daily Beast story headlined "Phylicia Rashad and the Cult of Cosby Truthers."

"But at the heart of this 'Truther' conspiracy theory is the idea that 'someone' wants to destroy Bill Cosby," Williams continued. "No one seems to know who that is -- or why they would want to do such a thing. Aside from general 'They wanna bring a black man down' sentiments, there has yet to be any substantive argument for why this would be happening right now."

Rashad sees darker forces at work.

"Well, my initial reaction to the allegations was, 'Hmmm. Someone has a vested interest in preventing Mr. Cosby's return to network television,' " she told ABC.

Defenders and distractions

Certainly, the allegations that Cosby sexually assaulted women have had an effect on his reputation. Some of his concerts and appearances were canceled, and NBC pulled out of a planned Cosby show project.

For some of Cosby's defenders, his position as a famous and wealthy black American seems to be enough of a reason to believe he is the victim of a smear campaign.

"Remember..at one time Bill Cosby was about to buy the NBC network..a Black man with any kind of real POWER is not cool in America!!!!," one person tweeted.

Several Twitter followers of singer Jill Scott, who stood up for the comedian in November, added their support. Of one particular dissenter, Scott asked, "@SimplyBerry u know Bill Cosby? I do child and this is insane. Proof. Period."

The Internet, which does like its conspiracy theories, has been fertile ground for debate over the accusations. Comic Faizon Love faced backlash in November after he went on a Twitter attack against those who said they believed the accusers, calling them "funky b*hes" and their supporters "porch monkeys."

Cosby's supporters note that so much of the controversy is based on unproven allegations. No charges have been filed against Cosby, and his attorneys have vehemently denied the allegations.