We don’t feel sorry for Bill Cosby; we feel sorry for Cliff Huxtable

The hammer has dropped. After years of whispers and months of buildup, a judge ruled in a hearing yesterday that there is enough evidence to take Bill Cosby to trial on charges of sexual assault.

Although nearly 60 women have accused him, Cosby will stand trial on three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault involving Andrea Constand, an employee at Cosby’s alma mater, in 2004.

Let me say right off the bat that I don’t truly have a theory about what happened between Bill Cosby and any woman. In America, no matter who you are or how much media coverage your charges have received, you’re still innocent until proven guilty. But if you’ve done wrong, you should reap the consequences. Until or unless Cosby is convicted in a court of law, I can’t say what the truth is. And in reality, neither can anyone else, except Cosby and his 57 accusers.

However, I can understand why many people and Cosby fans are reluctant to believe that the charges brought against Cosby are true. It’s probably not that they hate women or think victims bring sexual assault upon themselves or think rape is okay.

It’s that they’re witnessing the slow death of their childhood and of the cool, loving dad they all felt like they knew: Cliff Huxtable.

Not one other iconic Bill Cosby image comes first in our minds. Not the 1960s comedian, not Alexander Scott from I Spy, not even necessarily Fat Albert, Kids Say the Darndest Things or the Jell-O commercials. It’s Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable playfully stealing Rudy’s ice cream, commenting on Theo’s ridiculous clothing choices, or rolling his eyes at anything Elvin says.

Cliff Huxtable always knew the right time for anything. When to have fun. When to be serious. When to laugh. When to discipline. When to joke. When to comfort. He also knew how to do everything. How to play. How to argue. How to get Claire “in the mood.” How to explain right and wrong to his kids. How to be a good parent.

Even though he always projected a goofy, bumbling image, we as the audience knew those antics were for his on-screen family’s entertainment as much as they were for ours. White and black people loved him equally from Day One. We saw him weekly (or nightly on reruns in later years), and no one could tell us we didn’t know Cliff Huxtable. He was smart, he was a family man, he was wealthy, he was funny. He didn’t make any serious mistakes.

He certainly never drugged and sexually assaulted anyone. He would never do that.

The name Bill Cosby became synonymous with Cliff Huxtable. The Cosby Show was so well put together and so well acted that we became unable to separate the two men a long time ago.

It’s always hard to see our heroes stumble and fall, but sometimes it’s just as hard to see that the person has a life completely different from his or her image, good or bad, true or false.

King of Pop = accused child molester.

Heisman Trophy winner = accused murderer.

Conservative TV family man = homosexual who died of AIDS.

Classic Hollywood’s sweetheart = reportedly abusive mother.

Lovable freckle-faced redhead = drug user.

Regardless of what we each believe about these stories and others, and regardless of our opinion of the nature of a celebrity’s life, the public struggle with watching an image change so drastically. It’s like sprinting down one of those airport moving sidewalks, and suddenly the power goes out and we trip and skid across the rubber. Maybe we’re not mad or laughing it off yet, but we lie on the rubber going, “What happened?”

Even if 78-year-old Bill Cosby is found not guilty (not “innocent,” mind you, but “not guilty”), he will live out the rest of his days with suspicions surrounding him. His fans will continue to say, “What happened, Cliff?”

We don’t know Bill Cosby, but we know Cliff Huxtable. We – and the jury – just have to remember that Cliff Huxtable isn’t on trial.


6 Replies to “We don’t feel sorry for Bill Cosby; we feel sorry for Cliff Huxtable”

    1. Very true. Anyone can make a mistake, but celebrities, ideally, should always be on their best behavior, even behind closed doors. Eyes are always on them. In a perfect world, they’d be on their best behavior because it’s the right thing to do, not because they fear ramifications, but we live in an imperfect world 😦

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Thanks for writing this. It is very true. As Andrew was saying on this post on Facebook, the other problem with celebrities is that once one is accused and in the media, it becomes an issue of how many are true and how many are scrambling for the chance at money. Sad to note, but it has been proven again and again that there are women who do this (which is horrible because it makes it so much worse for the women telling the truth). If he has committed crimes, he should pay for those. If he hasn’t, it is truly sad to watch. I’ve seen every episode of The Cosby Show.


    1. I completely agree. I have personally seen a friend’s husband’s life and career nearly ruined because of an unstable young woman who falsely claimed he sexually assaulted her. Fortunately for them, an investigation proved her story to be a lie, but it was a stressful and scary time for my friend and her husband. People who do things like that need to be held accountable for their lies, because they hurt the individual(s) they accuse and the bigger picture of assault victims deciding whether or not to report what has been done to them. It makes my skin crawl.

      But yes, if Bill Cosby is found guilty of even just this one incident (since the statute of limitations has expired on all of the other accusations except one, potentially), he should receive full retribution. The jury selection process on this case is going to be horrendous.


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