In a rare interview airing Tuesday, Bill Cosby said he does not expect to testify at his upcoming felony sexual assault trial and that he believes racism played a big role in the scandal that has engulfed his life.
During a 30-minute conversation with SiriusXM host Michael Smerconish, the 79-year-old entertainer portrays himself as a victim of the media and of accusers who were “piling on.” Cosby, who has been accused of sexual misdeeds by at least 60 women, cited a feminist author, saying “Gloria Steinem had a very interesting quote. She said, ‘The truth shall set you free, but first it might piss you off.’ ”
Cosby’s interview is part of a rollout of orchestrated media appearances in advance of the start of jury selection Monday in his trial on charges of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former Temple University women’s basketball official, in 2004 at his estate in suburban Philadelphia.
One of Cosby’s attorneys, Angela Agrusa, who is based in Los Angeles, recently told the Hollywood Reporter that she hopes to change “the optics” of Cosby’s presumed guilt and hinted that she may use a theory of “false memory creation” to undercut his accuser’s credibility. Earlier this week, two of Cosby’s daughters — Ensa and Erinn — provided taped statements to “The Breakfast Club,” a nationally syndicated radio program about hip-hop music, culture and politics.
“What my father and family have had to endure these last few years makes me ashamed of our country today,” Erinn said in her taped remarks. Her sister said: “I believe that racism has played a big role in all aspects of this scandal. . . . My father is being punished by a society that still believes black men rape white women, but passes off as ‘boys will be boys’ when white men are accused.”
Asked about the racism allegation, Bill Cosby said, “Could be. . . . I just truly believe that some of it may very well be that.” Cosby did not respond when asked to reconcile the racism claims with the fact that some of his accusers are black.
Smerconish scored the big interview, Cosby’s first extended taped remarks since the scandal broke in late 2014, after he was first offered a 1½ -hour recording of Erinn Cosby interviewing her father for a documentary. Smerconish, an author and cable-television personality who lives in Montgomery County, Pa., where Cosby’s trial will be held, said he would only air portions of that interview if he were able to interview the comedy legend himself.
“I decided I think it’s time for me to do something so that the people who still have faith in me, the people who are still wondering what I sound like as opposed to the National Enquirer, which is very interesting reading when they write about me,” Cosby said, explaining his decision to agree to the interview.
Reached by phone, Steinem said it was a “mystery” to her why Cosby would cite her.
“It seems to me the women who are accusing him have more right to use that quote,” she said. “I have no idea what he was thinking.”
Steinem said she finds Cosby’s accusers “credible — as individuals and in their numbers.”
Cosby and his daughters seem intent on humanizing him and drawing attention to his philanthropic work. In a clip from his interview with Erinn, Cosby recalled growing up poor in Philadelphia and making a football out of rolled-up newspapers and rubber bands.
In his interview with Smerconish, Cosby talked about taking charge of arrangements for a special meal for his wife of more than 50 years, Camille, on Mother’s Day this year.
“I pretended I was Michael Jordan,” he said, referencing the basketball superstar known for taking charge on the court. “She came down, and she read the note, and she smiled, and everything there was just perfectly done, and it’s exactly what she hasn’t had in a long time.”
Cosby repeatedly referred to limits placed by his lawyers on what he can say. But when Smerconish pressed him about testifying at his trial, Cosby was somewhat more expansive. Asked if he wanted to testify, Cosby said, “No.”
“Once again, I go back to my lawyers,” he said. “When you have to deal with examination, cross-examination, et cetera, et cetera — more than two sides to every story. Sometimes it’s four or five. . . . I just don’t want to sit there and have to figure out what I believe is a truthful answer as to whether or not I’m opening a can of something that my lawyers are scrambling.”
At times during the interview, Cosby offered rambling or confusing responses. Early on, he said he’d “like to be remembered for being the guy that they made give back all the things they rescinded.” Asked to clarify his remark, Cosby said, “Well, things were rescinded, and I’d like to get those things back, because the people who decided to make that decision then saw they’d made a mistake.”
But he was crystal clear about his desire to return to performing — no matter the outcome of his trial: “I still feel like I have an awful lot to offer in terms of my writing, in terms of my performance. . . . I want to get back to the laughter and enjoyment of things that I’ve written and things that I perform on stage.”