The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

An alleged Cosby ‘fixer’ comes out of the shadows

More women, including actresses Michelle Hurd and Angela Leslie, have come forward accusing comedian Bill Cosby of sexual impropriety, and with them, one question looms large: If all this did indeed happen over the course of four decades, how did it go largely unchecked?

The story told by NBC “fixer” Frank Scotti, if true, would provide some answers. Scotti was a facilities manager at NBC charged with standing watch outside Cosby’s Brooklyn dressing room, he said. In an exclusive interview with the New York Daily News, Scotti alleged that Cosby would dispatch him to send payments to women, including Leslie, a former stand-in on “The Cosby Show.” At one point, Scotti alleged, the payments totaled $2,000 per month. He claimed the comedian would give him a bag of $100 bills to be disbursed as money orders of varying amounts. Scotti said he kept receipts from the money orders he allegedly sent, which he said Cosby requested be in Scotti’s name.

“I did a lot of crazy things for him,” Scotti told the Daily News. “He was covering himself by having my name on it. It was a coverup. I realized it later.”

He also told the paper Cosby instructed him to find an apartment for a woman Scotti, now 90, believed Cosby was seeing.

“I was suspicious that something was going on,” Scotti alleged. “I suspected that he was having sex with them because the other person he was sending money to [Shawn Thompson] he was definitely having sex with,” he alleged. Why else would he be sending money?”

Cosby’s attorney, Martin Singer, denounced Scotti’s claims. “What evidence does he have of Mr. Cosby’s involvement?” Singer said Saturday. “How would Scotti know if a woman was a model or a secretary? It appears that his story is pure speculation so that he can get his 15 minutes of fame.”

Cosby’s attorney, Singer, has issued denials of the accusations his client faces. “The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40, or even 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity,” Singer wrote. “These brand new claims about alleged decades-old events are becoming increasingly ridiculous, and it is completely illogical that so many people would have said nothing, done nothing, and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years.”

In her first person account for The Washington Post, Barbara Bowman didn’t just take aim at Cosby, but a network of enablers she said allegedly knew what was happening and did its part to assist Cosby in silencing women who might accuse him of sexual assault.

“For Cosby to commit these assaults against multiple victims over several years, there had to be a network of willfully blind wallflowers at best, or people willing to aid him in committing these sexual crimes at worst,” Bowman wrote. “As I told the Daily Mail, when I was a teenager, his assistants transported me to hotels and events to meet him. When I blacked out at Cosby’s home, there were several staffers with us. My agent, who introduced me to Cosby, had me take a pregnancy test when I returned from my last trip with him.”

Scotti’s recollections bear similarities to the story told by Therese Serignese, who alleged she received a wire transfer from Cosby via his agent at William Morris. Scotti told the Daily News Cosby sent more than $100,000 to Shawn Thompson. Thompson’s daughter Autumn Jackson claims Cosby is her father. Carla Ferrigno said in an interview she realized the man who introduced her to Cosby and then left her alone with him had likely set her up.

“I used to like him, but that’s the reason I quit him after so many years — because of the girls,” Scotti said.

What Bowman, Scotti, Ferrigno and Serignese describe, if true, are elements of what many would identify as rape culture. Rape culture is an idea that illuminates how sexual violence in society is normalized and allowed to persist. (Melissa McEwan has a fairly exhaustive explainer of the subject at Shakesville.) Rape culture covers everything from victim-blaming to the prevailing notion of rapists as menacing strangers who attack from bushes — not friends, confidants, mentors or spouses. Rape culture teaches women to rearrange their lives to avoid being raped (by not walking alone at night, by not wearing certain clothing, by carrying pepper spray and so on) rather than simply teaching men not to rape. In rape culture, there are few consequences for rapists — even fewer if they are rich, famous or powerful. Feminists believe rape culture discourages women who are raped from reporting it because there are so many disincentives for doing so, such as having their credibility trashed, especially if the perpetrator is well-liked.

Cosby lost deals with NBC and Netflix. TV Land canceled “Cosby Show” reruns, and two casinos canceled planned gigs, though Temple University, on whose board Cosby sits, has been silent. Kerry McCormick of Brooklyn started a petition directed at Temple.  The petition demands the university disavow the comedian, who just this year was its commencement speaker. He also spoke in 2007 after settling a civil lawsuit with former Temple director of basketball operations Andrea Constand, who alleged Cosby drugged and molested her. He also spoke in 2012.

Jill Filipovic, senior political writer for Cosmopolitan and co-creator of Feministe, was a guest this week on Melissa Harris-Perry’s eponymous MSNBC show. She explained how rape culture allowed Cosby to keep working after Constand and other women went public in the mid-aughts.

“I would like us to have a more nuanced conversation about what sexual violence looks like, the fact that Bill Cosby does have so many accusers is pretty standard, that people don’t look like monsters,” Filipovic said. “They live complicated lives. They can give money to Spelman College. They can be great philanthropists. They can be great artists. And not only can they be assailants and terrible people, but we know from various studies that men who commit sexual violence tend to do so serially, and that most men are not rapists.”

Current defenses of Cosby assume 16 women are liars or co-conspirators in a plot to bring him down — an ideology espoused by actor Faizon Love. Love, who played “Big Worm” in the “Friday” movies and more recently appeared in “Couples Retreat,” unleashed a storm of sexist, racially charged invective when Twitter users challenged him after he posted an Instagram photo that read “I support Bill Cosby.” In the caption, he wrote, “F— them lying b—-es.”

On the Wrap, Rich Stellar’s defense of Cosby prompted an explanation from founder Sharon Waxman. Stellar began his column with outrage bait: “Bill Cosby raped me,” he wrote.

After then saying, “now that I have your attention,” he went on to essentially call Cosby’s 16 accusers opportunistic liars. “They carry the faint aroma of deceit, selective memory, and blind ambition,” he wrote. He hectored Cosby’s accusers for not coming forward immediately and going to the police: “They should have reported it then — not a generation later.”

Elaborating on his thesis, Stellar wrote:

The concept of justice is disregarded. The statute of limitations is ignored. The recollections of events that happened as long as fifty years ago are dredged up by aging actresses who have one eye on the CNN camera, and the other on a book or reality show deal. If the statute of limitations was as long as the 15 minutes of fame that these lost souls are trying to recapture, then our prisons would be as vacant as the Holiday Inn in Acapulco (you probably have no idea what that means because you’re not used to real news). Thankfully, the statute of limitations was written to avoid exactly what this blog is about. There is no legitimacy to justice if there is no real evidence, and evidence has a way of vanishing as memories dim with the marching of time. A DNA swab on most of Cosby’s detractors if done today would most likely come up exceedingly dry.

On Sunday night, comedian and former “Daily Show” correspondent Wyatt Cenac commented on Cosby during a show at the Black Cat in Washington. It was not part of his planned set —  he was riffing, trying new material.

“There’s a part of it where you look at all the anger people have directed toward him and this s— has been around for 20-30 years,” Cenac said. “There’s something about it where all of the anger that’s directed at him. If you get rid of him, rape doesn’t go with him. It’s still going to be around. So there’s this thing where I feel like all the outrage is that we’re not mad enough at ourselves. This dude has been this way for f—ing ever. And it’s not just that he’s been this way forever, but there are a lot of other 77-year old men who were doing [the same thing Cosby] was doing. There are a lot of 77-year-old men that are worried as s—, who are like, ‘Oh, Spanish fly was bad?'”

Cenac also offered his own condemnation of rape culture.

“We can be mad at Cosby, but let’s take this s— further, because we live in a country … we’ve done pretty well by rape,” Cenac said. “We live in a country where in 31 states, a rapist has parental rights and parental claim on a child that they conceived out of rape. Thirty-one states out of 50. That’s not all the states you hate. That’s some of the ones you like. Thirty-one out of 50. Those are crazy numbers. If you were a quarterback in the NFL, and you completed 31 of 50 passes, chances are you’re winning the game, and not just winning the game, they are going to ride you to the playoffs. Rape is a pro-bowl quarterback.

“That’s what’s so f—ed up in this country. Like, not just put this s— on Cosby. We need to … fix that s—, because if rape can go to Honolulu, that’s f—ed up. It’s a crazy, quite weird country. And I’m sorry. I didn’t have a joke. It was just s— that was on my mind, and I know you came to hear me tell jokes, and now I’m running for office. But it’s one of those things that’s been bugging me and it’s hard to talk about it.”