Bill Cosby town halls are 'not about sexual assault,' publicist says
In an effort to quash public ridicule and ire, a Cosby spokesperson said the priority is restoring Cosby's legacy, not teaching youth how to handle sexual assault accusations.
Update June 26, 2017: Publicists for Bill Cosby announced on “Good Morning Alabama” last week that the fallen TV dad would host town halls this summer to teach young men, particularly athletes, how to avoid sexual assault allegations.
“The town-hall meetings are not about sexual assault,” publicist Ebonee Benson told CNN on Sunday in an about-face. “I will repeat. These town-hall meetings are not about sexual assault.”
According to Benson, the town halls are about something more noble — restoring Cosby’s legacy.
“When we initially talked about the town-hall meetings, it was about restoration of legacy – much to what Mrs. Cosby spoke on in her statement is the sensationalism brought on by the media,” Benson explained. “This is another example of that. To take something meant to talk about the restoration of this man's legacy that was destroyed by the media before he even had a chance to step into the courtroom. That's what this is about.”
Benson was the same publicist who told “Good Morning Alabama” last week: “Laws are changing. The statute of limitations for victims of sexual assault are being extended, so, this is why people need to be educated on a brush against the shoulder. You know, anything at this point can be considered sexual assault, and it’s a good thing to be educated about the laws.”
The news that the man accused of multiple instances of drugging and raping women was going to teach athletes and married men how to avoid accusations, instead of, say, not raping in the first place, was not something the public swallowed easily.
Bill Cosby plans to tour and teach young people to avoid sexual misconduct. Isn't that like O.J. Simpson teaching anger management?— Larry Elder (@larryelder) June 24, 2017
Bill Cosby is going to teach men how to avoid getting accused of sexual assault...— Mike P Williams ?(@Mike_P_Williams) June 22, 2017
...Not drugging and raping women would be a good start.
Anybody going to the Bill Cosby Town Hall on How To Avoid Being Accused of Sexual Assault? Ladies, don't drink the water.— Mexican Judge (@laloalcaraz) June 23, 2017
“It would be more useful if Mr. Cosby would spend time talking with people about how not to commit sexual assault in the first place,” said Jodi Omear, a Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network spokeswoman, Elle UK reported.
Bill Cosby could be taking up the father-figure role again as he teaches youth about sexual assault – specifically, how to avoid being accused of it.
Andrew Wyatt and Ebonee Benson, Cosby’s spokespeople, told “Good Morning Alabama” on Wednesday that the comedian is planning a series of town halls this summer. The focus will be educating young people, especially athletes, on how to identify warning signs from a potential victim and how to handle any accusations.
“We are now planning town halls, and we’re gonna be coming to this city sometime in July,” Wyatt said, “to talk to young people because this is bigger than Bill Cosby. This issue can affect any young person, especially young athletes of today. And they need to know what they’re facing when they’re hanging out and partying, when they’re doing certain things that they shouldn’t be doing — and it also affects married men.”
When the host of “Good Day Alabama” said the town halls sound like a “do as I say, not as I do situation,” Benson interjected.
“Laws are changing. The statute of limitations for victims of sexual assault are being extended,” she said. “So, this is why people need to be educated on a brush against the shoulder. You know, anything at this point can be considered sexual assault, and it’s a good thing to be educated about the laws.”
Pennsylvania prosecutors plan to retry the 79-year-old Cosby on charges of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home in the Philadelphia area in 2004. The jury in Cosby's earlier trial deadlocked 10-2.
A lawyer for 33 women who have accused the former star of the 1980s TV hit "The Cosby Show" of sexual assault criticized the move as an apparent attempt to interfere with his expected retrial.
"I received hundreds of calls from civic organizations and churches requesting for Mr. Cosby to speak to young men and women about the judicial system," Wyatt said in an email Thursday.
The case is the only criminal prosecution to emerge from dozens of similar allegations against Cosby, dating as far back as the 1960s, with the other cases too old to prosecute.
The talks could make it harder to pick an unbiased jury for his retrial, said attorney Gloria Allred, who represents the 33 women.
"Mr. Cosby's so-called workshops appear to be a transparent and slick effort to attempt to influence the jury pool from which jurors will be selected for his second criminal trial," Allred said in an email. "Mr. Cosby should understand, however, that this is not about optics. It is about evidence."
Reuters contributed to this report.