Bill Cosby: what will his legacy be now?
Matt Rourke-Pool/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — After six days of deliberations, the jury in the Bill Cosby sexual assault trial in Norristown, PA, was unable to reach a unanimous decision on Cosby’s guilt, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial. The district attorney has already said they will re-try the case.
As we await what happens next, the question now is: can the world still appreciate Bill Cosby, the trailblazing entertainer once fondly known as “America’s Dad?”
“His empire has been forever tarnished and tainted…as is his legacy,” says ABC News Senior Legal Correspondent Sunny Hostin. “[T]his is a man who’s 79 years old, who admitted to giving women Quaaludes as a practice prior to having sexual contact, even though he was married. I just don’t think he can then go back as ‘America’s Dad’ or go back to America as a moral authority.”
Cosby has also been accused by at least 59 other women of drugging and/or sexually assaulting them. He’s denied all the accusations and, other than in the Constand case, hasn’t been criminally charged.
Following his eight-year tenure on TV’s The Cosby Show, which earned him the “America’s Dad” moniker, Cosby was seen even more as a moral authority following a 2004 speech at an NAACP event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, which desegregated public schools. Cosby criticized some African-Americans for what he said was a failure to take responsibility for their own lives, instead blaming their plight on institutionalized discrimination and racism.
“In our own neighborhood, we have men in prison,” Cosby said. “No longer is a person embarrassed because they’re pregnant without a husband. No longer is a boy considered an embarrassment if he tries to run away from being the father of the unmarried child…In the neighborhood that most of us grew up in, parenting is not going on.”
Cosby also was seen as a father figure to many at his alma mater, Temple University. The comedian stepped down from the Philadelphia university’s board of trustees in 2014 as accusations of sexual assault continued, but the school still has a $3,000 scholarship in his name, given to rising juniors majoring in the natural sciences, according to the school’s website.
Cosby’s legacy in the years to come will somehow have to balance his decades of groundbreaking entertainment achievements, his considerable philanthropic work and his cultivated image of the benevolent moral authority, with the dozens of accusations of reprehensible personal behavior over those same decades — accusations that remain unresolved and may be far from over.
Will fans still remember Cosby as the comic who made generations laugh, or has that legacy been irreparably damaged?
“The statues come down, I think. The names come off the buildings. I think the first line of the obituary changes,” says longtime entertainment journalist and ESPN correspondent Chris Connelly. “I think everything changes. I think to some degree a lot of that has already happened.”
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