At least as far as his lawyers are concerned, Bill Cosby intends to return to his entertainment career— once all these rape accusations are sorted out.
In a brief arguing that documents relating to her client’s lawsuit should be sealed, Cosby’s attorney Angela Agrusa wrote to a judge in Massachusetts that the 79-year-old disgraced entertainer — who has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault spanning decades — hopes to return to his career after this case is resolved.
“When Mr. Cosby is cleared from all liability and charges, he expects to resume his career, and there is no reason to believe otherwise,” she argued.
“No reason.” Hm.
To be sure, this is the law as usual. Lawyers are supposed to defend their clients however they can. But in the face of what has come out of the woodwork about Cosby, this brief is brazen reframing of his current public image. The question of Cosby’s legacy, and the legacy of “The Cosby Show,” has been central to the scandal around Cosby ever since these allegations resurfaced in late 2014. It was that seemingly bulletproof reputation that made it so hard for these women to be heard in the first place. The 2005 attempt by one of his accusers, Andrea Constand, to be heard by the media ultimately faded from significance, even though it was covered extensively by the Philadelphia Daily News, People Magazine, and Fox News. The Cosby allegations have been a flashpoint for Hollywood discussing and understanding how sexual assault can become normalized in this industry.
There are practical reasons for why Cosby would probably not be able to pursue a career post-trials — at the advanced age of 79, the comedian is battling health problems, including degenerating eyesight and memory loss. His own lawyers, including Agrusa, have argued that Cosby’s eyesight is so poor, and the allegations so old, that he would not be able to even recognize the 13 women that prosecutors intended to call to the stand.
But more troubling is the blithe assertion that we could forgive and forget this narrative; that, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, Cosby could once again be a working entertainer in Hollywood. The very notion of Cosby embarking on an apology tour at the tender age of 79 should have an air of desperate manufacture to it. But is it really so implausible? Controversial figures like Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Mel Gibson have all found their way back into the good graces of at least some industry leaders, even when scandal seemed to follow them around. And of course, given this week’s election results, it is painfully obvious that sexual assault allegations do not appear to really damage the reputation of powerful men.
This bit of legal opportunism is deeply troubling for what it says about us — about the entertainment industry, sure, but the world at large, too. Any return Cosby made to the limelight would be a slap in the face to the numerous women victimized by him, who have described patterns and behavior so uniform that they have collectively solidified their credibility. Many of those women were in the entertainment industry themselves. Is it really so easy to believe that Cosby has a post-trials career future?
It seems impossible. It should be impossible. But then again, perhaps Agrusa knows more about the professional resilience of men accused of rape than I am willing to accept. This is a bit of legal maneuvering, an attempt to squirm out of unsealing documents that the public might be interested in. But what is most frustrating about it is the deep-down, horrible knowledge that for all we know, Agrusa could be right.