IN AN EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT FROM HER NEW BOOK, BILL COSBY ACCUSER ANDREA CONSTAND SHARES THE MOMENT SHE REALIZED THE COMEDIAN KNOWN AS `AMERICA'S DAD' COULD NO LONGER SIDESTEP ALLEGATIONS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT.
In a memoir out Tuesday, Andrea Constand recounts the years-long legal fight to bring Bill Cosby to justice. The comedian known as `America's Dad' was accused of sexual assault by more than 60 women, but only Constand's case went to court. She faced him through a civil suit, two trials and a guilty verdict. Cosby served nearly three years in prison before his release in June.
It was October 2014, a crisp fall evening. The sun had set hours earlier, and the street noise had hushed to a quiet hum. I made sure Cassie was settled onto her dog pillow outside my bedroom door, and then I slipped under the covers. Maddy jumped onto the bed and stretched out beside me. I took my phone from my bedside table to check for messages and briefly scroll through Facebook before I called it a day. One of my FB friends had posted a video along with the words “Hey, everybody. Check this out!” I took the cue and clicked Play. I wasn't prepared for what I would see and hear next.
In the grainy video, comedian Hannibal Buress was standing onstage in what looked to be a small nightclub. And he was ranting about Bill Cosby, complaining that he had been lecturing Black people about how to behave. Then Buress said, “Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple of notches.” I gasped. I hadn't heard anyone mention the accusations against Cosby in about eight years. Buress continued his routine, talking about how he had said this same thing in a number of shows and people never believed him. “You leave here and google `Bill Cosby rape,' ” Buress told his audience. “That s--t has more results than `Hannibal Buress.' ”
It was as if a small earthquake had hit. The floor seemed to tremble beneath me. What would people find if they googled “Bill Cosby rape”? I thought. And then the answer: They would find Barbara Bowman. They would find Beth Ferrier. They would find Tamara Green. They would find me. I thought back to those months in 2005, when my family members had been afraid to pick up the phone or open the front door. The blasts of shouted questions and the barrage of camera flashes. The reluctance to leave home without scouting for reporters first. That feeling of being the fox in a hunt.
I closed my phone and put it by my bedside, then took a deep breath. So what? I said to myself. That's all in the past.
In 2005, when word got out about the charges I'd made and the accusations of other women, the attention had been excruciatingly intense. But it had been relatively brief too, like a wave washing across writing in the sand. After another burst of attention following the civil settlement, the same erasure seemed to happen.
Buress's routine was referring to ancient history, I reminded myself. No one really cared back then, and there was no reason to believe anyone would care now. Those who had seen the video would have forgotten it come morning. The room was still. I snapped off my bedside lamp and pulled the covers up to my chin. Maddy sighed, and I closed my eyes and felt my heartbeat slow. I drifted off to sleep, my past shoved back into the recesses of my mind. Nothing to worry about.
But I was wrong about that.
When I woke up the next morning, I made a point of not checking Facebook. But then I got a text from a friend about the Buress video. Over the next few days, my cellphone buzzed and chirped with alarming frequency. The notes from family and friends were all the same: “Have you seen this?” and “Are you okay?” The video was clearly making the rounds.
As the days unfolded, the rumbling sensation I had felt when I first heard Buress's words returned. Media outlets were picking up the story of his viral video. A number of them reviewed the allegations that had been printed in the past and asked why no one had much cared about that news at the time. Some of the accusers asked the same: Tamara Green and
Barbara Bowman wrote oped pieces wanting to know why people hadn't believed their stories.
A number of pundits and writers have since weighed in on why Hannibal Buress's remarks about Cosby drew the attention they did. After all, there was some good reporting done in 2005 and 2006. Nicole Weisensee Egan, a dedicated and dogged journalist who was working at the Philadelphia Daily News in those years, had put out article after article that seriously and respectfully covered not only my story but those of the other women who had talked about their traumatic experiences with Cosby. She had even penned detailed, thoughtful pieces for national outlets like People magazine. And yet, most of that coverage stayed right where it started. Unlike Cosby's defamatory quotations in the National Enquirer and Marty Singer's falsehoods on Celebrity Justice, few of Nicki's stories were picked up by wire services or other media. Cosby and his reputation as a beloved father figure and family man, therefore, remained largely untarnished as he continued his speaking tours, interviews, and comedy specials. In the years since I'd told my story, he had received numerous awards and accolades from educational institutions and other organizations.
I don't know whether it was because Buress is a man, or because he is a fellow Black comedian, or because he was so blunt, or because of the expanded reach of social media, but Cosby and his people could not contain the scandal. It was becoming clear that at this moment, the story was not going to be washed away.
Excerpted from The Moment: Standing Up to Bill Cosby Speaking Up for Women by Andrea Constand. Copyright © 2021 Andrea Constand. Published by Viking Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.