More than 13 women have recently come forward claiming Bill Cosby sexually assaulted them, igniting a media firestorm.
As a result, Netflix has indefinitely delayed the release of a Cosby stand-up special, NBC stopped development on a new sitcom starring Cosby, and TV Land is going to stop airing reruns of "The Cosby Show."
Yet the 77-year-old comedian, who was once revered as "America's dad," is continuing to perform like he did Saturday in Florida.
Howard Bragman, a crisis PR expert and founder of 15 Minutes Public Relations, tells Business Insider that Cosby's nearly 50-year-long career is now "probably" over and that the comedian should "shut up and disappear."
"It's hard to see who would want to be in the Bill Cosby business right now," Bragman explains. "Certainly not a brand, both Netflix and NBC have said 'no.'"
"I don't see what he can say, and even when he says 'This is just innuendo,' why are you doing these comedy clubs?" Bragman questions. "You don't need the money, just go in your mansion and be happy."
While Bragman admits that Cosby "doesn't have a lot of good options right now," the PR expert explains the comedian "has essentially three choices" of how to deal with the scandal:"You can not talk." "You can go on record and deny it, which he has done and more people keep coming out of the woodwork." "Or you can say, 'Yes, I did it and I'm going to get help for it,' but that would open up all sorts of litigation and I don't think that's something you can advise him to do."
In conclusion, Bragman says Cosby "doesn't have a lot of good choices."
"I don't know that this is ever going to blow over," says Bragman. "Unless there's some sort of conspiracy or something that comes out that was an attempt to pain him, I don't know that this one will blow over. It's not a DUI, it's not a one-time deal, or a moment. This was seemingly a lifestyle for a long time."
Bragman clarifies "we don't know what happened," but says he is suspicious because "even since it started coming out, so many women have started coming forward with nothing to gain out of it. If they were people who had something to gain and were going to file civil suits, you say, 'okay, I see some motivation' and I see that all the time against celebrities. What you don't see is people with nothing to gain coming forward, that's the unusual part of this."
Bragman continues, "He should be grateful that he's likely not going to have to go on trial for these kinds of things because they happened a long time ago. But when I look at women living quiet lives in their 60s and 70s and a 90-year-old guy who worked at NBC, I'm not willing to believe these people did it for publicity or money, I think they saw what was going on and they wanted to live their truth and get it out there."
According to RAINN statistics, 60% of women don't report sexual assault, and even when they do, 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail.
"And that's in the normal world," Bragman says, citing the stats. "You're not talking about someone who has all the money in the world and all of the powerful lawyers in the world and one truly understands why, if these allegations are true, why somebody would be reluctant to stand up and make these claims."
Despite decades of rumors about Cosby sexually assaulting women and some even coming forward throughout the years, the accusations never hit mainstream media until a few weeks ago, when comedian Hannibal Buress did a standup bit that reignited the rumors.
As for why the accusations finally stuck this time around, Bragman says, "I think the media got on board. I think one big factor was social media. Before, if mainstream media didn't report it, it didn't happen. But now with social media, it has been talked about aggressively every time there's a new charge. Hannibal's video went viral because of social media."
And Bragman isn't surprised by the aftermath.
"I figured that's what would happen," Bragman says of Netflix and NBC indefinitely postponing their projects with Cosby. "NBC was in development and that's one of those black holes of Hollywood where it's easy to let it go. Netflix I think it's a contractual issue with them, I don't know if they have to pay him or how it works, but he's certainly not in a position to go out and do interviews to support a project, which is what you do when you have a project like that."
But why would Netflix and NBC agree to work with Cosby in the first place, knowing about the years of rumors?
While Bragman "can't speak for NBC or Netflix," he simply says, "There's a lot of rumors about a lot of different people. But I think they made the right decision at this time."
As for whether the projects could one day be greenlit again if the Cosby scandal ever blows over, Bragman seems to think it's unlikely. "I think one has to see how this plays out — if he's vindicated of charges or if he's accused of more. As of now, the vast majority of shows 'in development' never see the light of day anyways, so that would not be surprising if it just disappeared."
While the comedian's career may be over, Bragman does add, "I want to be clear, Bill Cosby did a lot of good things through the years. He was breakthrough in that he redefined the black family in America, he did some amazing things — but that doesn't make other things okay. You look at Paula Deen and Lance Armstrong, who both did good things and also had scandal, and we are complex beings, we're not perfect. It's very interesting to look at people who have had everything in the world and were living the kinds of lives that perhaps they weren't proud of."
Bragman concludes, "This is not a personal judgement on Bill Cosby, this is an observation from somebody who handles crises and is a spin doctor. I'm here to tell you the prognosis of a patient and it's not good."
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