Marijke Rowland

Marijke Rowland: Journalists blew it by giving Bill Cosby a pass

Bill Cosby
Bill Cosby

You will not be surprised to hear that Bill Cosby has decided not to do an interview with us.

Well, first he said yes. And then he said no.

The comedian is slated to appear at Turlock Community Theatre in January and, as is standard operating procedure for an entertainment writer like me, I reached out to his publicist well in advance to set up an interview. This was several weeks ago, when people still attached the words “beloved” and “respected” to Cosby’s name without adding an asterisk.

His publicist agreed to the interviews without hesitation. Cosby has talked with us before, notably in 2011 when he was interviewed by another Bee reporter to advance an appearance at downtown Modesto’s Gallo Center for the Arts.

But then, on the same day former supermodel Janice Dickinson became the 15th woman to come forward with allegations of past sexual assault against the comedian, an abrupt email came back that “Mr. Cosby is not doing interviews at this time.”

We’ve reported already that Cosby’s Jan. 18 sold-out show in Turlock is still slated to go on, as planned. And I no doubt will end up writing an advance of that show, as planned.

So while I was not surprised, I was extremely disappointed that Cosby has stopped doing interviews. An interview at this point would be huge and, one would hope, illuminating. But, if I search deep down, I was also the tiniest bit relieved.

This is a hard thing for a reporter to admit, because getting the story is our undeniable life’s mission. But there’s also something surreal about the thought of talking with a man you watched dole out fatherly advice with your family each week and asking him about accusations of an alleged history of drugging and raping women.

But then, my relief turned to shame. Because why weren’t we asking him about it before? The whispers of Cosby’s dark past have been around for years. They became public in 2005, when Andrea Constand accused him of “inappropriate touching” to authorities. A subsequent lawsuit mentioned 13 other women with similar allegations against Cosby who were willing to testify. He later settled with Constand out of court for an undisclosed amount.

Other women have come forward in magazines and interviews to tell similar tales in the past decade. But still, for the most part, Cosby remained above the fray. It wasn’t until this fall when another male comic took him to task on stage that the media as a whole finally took notice. The irony that it was a comedian – someone whose undeniable life’s mission is to make us laugh – who brought it to light and not a journalist is not lost on this journalist.

As reporters, we question things – even us happy-go-lucky entertainment reporters. But for too long, Cosby went along above our queries because his reputation trumped our curiosity. No matter which side you stand on in his current controversies, when it comes to Cosby, it’s clear we as the media failed. We didn’t ask him the uncomfortable questions when we should have because he was the guy who sold us Jell-O as children.

Asking a question is not a conviction, but it is our job. And now, it seems, we don’t have another chance to try.

Elsewhere around the Scene:

After a two-year hiatus, Radio 92.9 FM is bringing back its popular Acoustic Christmas show, Dec. 2 at the State Theatre. The event will feature performances by the American Authors, Matt Nathanson, Echosmith and Andy Grammer.Tickets are sold out, but can still be won by listening to the station. Visit www.hitradio929.com.

And finally, the Fat Cat Music House & Lounge is also back with new shows. First on Saturday, catch homegrown Modesto comic Anthony K. The comedy night show will also feature comics Chris Teicheira and Jason Sohm. Show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $10. Then on Dec. 12 the venue welcomes San Diego-based reggae band Tribal Seeds. The show will feature openers HIRIE and Wheeland Brothers. Tickets are $17 in advance, $20 at the door. Dec. 13 the club sees the return of the Moonshine Bandits. The show by the Los Banos-based outlaw country rap duo will also feature Big B and Demun Jones. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Call (209) 524-1400 or visit www.fatcatmodesto.com.

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2284. Follow her on Twitter @marijkerowland.

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