Bill Cosby responds to criticisms: The message is more important than the messenger

Cosby didn't address assault claims made by more than 25 women and has largely maintained his silence since the allegations resurfaced starting last year. 

Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP/File
Bill Cosby performs during a show at the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts in Melbourne, Fla., in November.

Bill Cosby said young people should separate what he has to say about their future from sexual assault allegations lodged against him.

The actor and comedian was in Alabama to speak with high school students as part of a nonprofit foundation's campaign to improve education in the south-central part of the state. In a taped interview with ABC's "Good Morning America," Cosby was asked how he would respond if a youngster pressed him about accusations that he drugged and sexually assaulted a number of women over a period of decades.

"I think many of them say, 'Well, you're a hypocrite. You say one thing, you say the other,'" he replied. "My point is, 'OK, listen to me carefully. I'm telling you where the road is out. You want to go here or you want to be concerned about who is giving you the message?'"

Cosby, 77, who has never been criminally charged, didn't address assault claims made by more than 25 women and has largely maintained his silence since the allegations resurfaced starting last year. He faces two pending suits.

"I have been in this business 52 years. ... I've never seen anything like this. And reality is the situation," he said, adding, "and I can't speak."

He volunteered his time to bring exposure to area schools, Black Belt Community Foundation President Felecia Lucky has said. He was to meet students at Selma High School on Friday before marching with them across the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge. The bridge was the setting for Bloody Sunday in 1965, where police beat peaceful demonstrators marching in favor of voting rights.

Sitting with Cosby during the ABC interview, Lucky defended the decision to trade on his fame despite the allegations.

"At the end of the day, what is most important is ... how do we make sure that the world knows that the Black Belt children matter," Lucky said. The region is named for its fertile black soil but is stifled by low income and high unemployment.

Cosby was asked if he was concerned about his legacy and what he'd like it to be.

"I really know about what I'm going to do tomorrow. I have a ton of ideas to put on television about people and their love for each other," he said.

Shortly after the scandal broke last year, NBC decided not to move forward with a planned Cosby sitcom. The star of the influential and popular 1980s family comedy "The Cosby Show," he has long weighed in on the issues of education and personal responsibility in the African-American community. He and his wife, Camille, have donated millions of dollars in gifts to colleges and hundreds of thousands more for scholarship grants through the couple's foundation.

ABC said more of the interview was to air Friday on "Nightline."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to