Bill Cosby and the court of public opinion

Published 7:00 am Saturday, November 22, 2014

The presumption of innocence is considered a fundamental right in the United States legal system, as well as many other modern republics. The phrase “innocent until proven guilty” is stated outright in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
But that presumption is reserved for a court of law, not the court of public opinion, where one’s image can be legitimately tarnished without ever being proven guilty of a crime.
Actor and comedian Bill Cosby is the latest individual to be rendered guilty by the court of public opinion.
Multiple women have come forward and accused the 77-year-old comic of sexual assault with allegations dating as far back as the 1970s.
According to TIME Magazine, a woman filed a lawsuit against Cosby in 2006 claiming he had molested her in his home two years earlier. The case was settled out of court with undisclosed terms, but the court papers listed 12 anonymous women who had made similar allegations. Eight years later, two of the accusers remain adamant of Cosby’s guilt, along with several others who have submitted their claims of Cosby’s alleged abuse. Today, there are 10 women who have publicly accused Cosby of sexual assault.
In response to the scandal, Netflix has cancelled a special it was planning to air featuring Bill Cosby, and NBC has dropped its plans for a Cosby sitcom. TV Land has stopped airing reruns of “The Cosby Show” on its network.
With the unsettling nature of these allegations, it is understandable that these networks would rather err on the side of caution to protect their brand, but the fact remains: there is no proof that any of these accusations are valid.
Cosby has elected to stay quiet on the subject, refusing to answer any questions about the allegations and saying that he does not want to dignify the denunciations with a comment.
It is likely that we will never know the truth of this situation, but whether it is fair or not, society will serve as the judge, jury and executioner in instances like this. Perception feels like reality in the court of public opinion.

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