For more than 30 years, Bill Cosby was able to keep the sexual assault allegations against him from ever circulating beyond individual news reports. Before Hannibal Buress made the allegations go viral in October during a standup routine, few people even knew of Cosby’s past.
The New York Times attributed part of his success to “the aggressive legal and media strategy mounted by Mr. Cosby and his team," an effort that combined both strong-arming the media, sometimes with threats of defamation lawsuits, and silencing his victims with threats of revealing “damaging information” about them to the media.
But these stories and many others are a sign that Cosby is losing the media, which could hobble his back-channel efforts to dig up and publicize dirt on his growing list of accusers.
“He’s not just bullying the victims,” says Carrie Goldberg, a New York City-based lawyer whose practice includes work with victims of sexual assault, “but also the media — and claiming that they, too are opportunists! It’s arrogant, outdated, and naive for him to think he has the sway to deter the media."
In November, BuzzFeed published Cosby attorney's Martin Singer's letter to writer Kate Arthur, who aired model Janice Dickinson's allegations of being drugged and raped by Cosby, highlighting the letter's threat, "proceed at your peril."
And the Associated Press, also in November, decided to release a video interview it did with Cosby that included a portion he demanded be censored: one in which the reporter asks him to comment on the ever-growing rape charges. The video reveals that Cosby not only expected the AP to accept his editorial demands, but that he chastised the wire service for asking him questions about it at all, considering them not newsworthy but rather fit for tabloid journalism.
And in a letter to CNN's President Jeff Zucker that leaked on tabloid website TMZ on Saturday, Singer takes the network to task for not looking into accuser and former Vogue model Beverly Johnson's background. The letter particularly criticized CNN for not interviewing one of Johnson's former boyfriends, who claims she never told him about Cosby, and in fact spoke highly of him. CNN is working on a special about the Cosby allegations.
"Your letter is remarkable for its dishonesty,” CNN Worldwide’s senior vice president of legal, David Vigilante, responded in a letter published by TheWrap. He chastises Singer for not revealing that Johnson's ex was abusive and almost tried to kill her, and hence, was not exactly a credible source. He also asks the lawyer to address letters not to random CNN staffers as he had been doing, but to him, hinting that Singer was harassing the CNN staff.
"He’s not 'America’s Dad' anymore," said Goldberg, "and even if he were still at the head of that table, compared to, say, threats of hackings from North Korea harassing our media and entertainment company, Cosby’s threats of lawsuits seem quaint.”
Whether or not any Cosby accusers go to an actual court to seek restitution, it looks like the era in which his alleged victims get put on trial in the court of public opinion -- with the aid of the media -- might be coming to a close.