By Lynn Elber
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LOS ANGELES _ Bill Cosby will not dignify “decade-old, discredited” claims of sexual abuse with a response, his attorney said Sunday, the first comment from the famed comedian on an increasing uproar over allegations that he assaulted several women in the past.
In a statement released to The Associated Press and posted online, lawyer John P. Schmitt said the fact that the allegations are being repeated “does not make them true.”
“He would like to thank all his fans for the outpouring of support and assure them that, at age 77, he is doing his best work,” Schmitt said.
The renewed attention to a dark chapter for Cosby began last month when a comedian, Hannibal Buress, assailed him during a stand-up performance in Philadelphia, Cosby’s hometown, calling him a “rapist.” His remarks were captured on video and posted online, gaining wide exposure.
It was harsh criticism of the veteran entertainer known equally for his charming standup comedy, ethnically groundbreaking 1984-92 NBC TV sitcom “The Cosby Show” and demands for personal responsibility directed at fellow African-Americans.
Adding to the growing firestorm: One of Cosby’s accusers, Barbara Bowman, levelled allegations of sexual assault against him in interviews and in an online column for the Washington Post. Bowman wrote that in 1985, she was 17 and an aspiring actress when Cosby “brainwashed me into viewing him as a father figure, and then assaulted me multiple times.”
Cosby, who was never criminally charged in any case, settled a civil suit in 2006 with another woman over an alleged incident two years before.
He stonewalled National Public Radio host Scott Simon during an interview broadcast this weekend with Cosby and his wife, Camille, about their African-American art collection. Cosby fell silent when asked by Simon about “serious allegations raised about you in recent days,” which prompted the host to say, “You’re shaking your head, no. … Do you have any response to those charges? Shaking your head, no.”
Cosby also declined comment when asked by The AP about the allegations last week in Washington, where the Smithsonian Institution was opening an exhibit on the collection.
Cosby postponed indefinitely an AP interview scheduled for this week. It had been intended to discuss an upcoming Netflix project.
Whether the latest scrutiny will substantially affect his still-active career has yet to be seen. An appearance on CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman” was cancelled, and another engagement, on “The Queen Latifah Show” on Oct. 30, was characterized by that show as a postponement granted at Cosby’s request.
He has standup performances scheduled, including one Sunday night in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a special premiering Nov. 28 for Netflix. Cosby has been in talks with NBC for a new family sitcom, featuring Cosby as the patriarch. No air date has been announced.
He has kept to his busy concert schedule despite the furor, with shows last week in Madison and La Crosse, Wisconsin; Rosemont, Illinois, in the Chicago area on Saturday, and Carnegie Hall in New York on Nov. 8.
An email request Sunday to Netflix on the status of its project with Cosby did not receive an immediate response. NBC declined comment.