How the Bill Cosby Story Snowballed
It took a new book, a stand-up's scorn and plenty of social media to reignite years-old claims of sexual abuse and derail the 77-year-old legend's career
This story first appeared in the Dec. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
SEPTEMBER 16: Author Mark Whitaker publishes Cosby: His Life and Times. The book makes no reference to a civil lawsuit Cosby settled in 2006 in which a woman claimed he had drugged and sexually assaulted her, or to 13 other women who came forward with similar accusations when the suit was filed.
SEPTEMBER 17: Asked why he steered clear of the accusations, Whitaker responds, "I didn't want to print allegations that I couldn't confirm independently." Few outlets pick up the story.
OCTOBER 16: Comic Hannibal Buress says, "You raped women, Bill Cosby," as part of a Philadelphia stand-up show. He had done the bit before, but video of it begins circulating on YouTube.
OCTOBER 30: The video gains traction online; Cosby's appearance on The Queen Latifah Show is canceled. A rep for the show tells THR the move was Cosby's request.
NOVEMBER 10: Cosby's Twitter account requests followers "meme" him. It backfires, with users posting a rush of #CosbyMeme pictures with captions like "14 allegations of rape?! Zipzopzubittybop!"
NOVEMBER 13: Barbara Bowman, one of the women who made assault claims after the 2006 case, writes an editorial in the Washington Post questioning why the allegations only captured the public's attention when a man — Buress — brought them up.
NOVEMBER 15: Interviewed by NPR's Scott Simon, Cosby falls silent when asked about the allegations. He then states through an attorney that he will not "dignify these allegations with any comment."
NOVEMBER 17: Former actress Joan Tarshis claims on CNN Tonight that Cosby drugged and assaulted her.
NOVEMBER 18: Model Janice Dickinson claims to Entertainment Tonight that Cosby raped her in 1982. Netflix then shelves a special taped in July on Cosby's 77th birthday.
NOVEMBER 19: NBC scraps a planned comedy in which Cosby would play a grandfather. Bowman had called the project "irresponsible" in an interview with THR days earlier. When a parody news site writes that Cosby molested TV step-granddaughter Raven-Symone, she takes to Instagram, calling the story "a disgusting rumor."
NOVEMBER 20: After more than 10 women come forward, Cosby attorney Marty Singer fires back, calling the claims "utter nonsense" and showing one accuser, Linda Joy Traitz, to have a criminal record, including identity theft and drug possession. Lou Ferrigno's wife, Carla, claims Cosby forcibly kissed her in 1967.
NOVEMBER 21: Cosby's stand-up dates in Las Vegas and Arizona are pulled, but he gets a standing ovation at a Florida show.