When Mark Whitaker’s biography of Bill Cosby was published in September 2014, it earned favourable reviews for its sympathetic portrait of a comedy legend, who, in spite of some personal flaws, had contributed immeasurably to race relations in the US.
Yet on the publicity trail for Cosby: His Life and Times, one question dogged Mr Whitaker in interviews: why, over the course of 544 pages, had he never explored the widespread rumours that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted women during the 1970s and 1980s?
Now, with Cosby disgraced by a rolling scandal precipitated in part by its publication, the book’s publisher has said it will let Mr Whitaker’s biography slide quietly out of print.
Simon & Schuster publicity chief Cary Goldstein this week told the Associated Press that there would be no paperback edition of Cosby: His Life and Times, and that the existing hardback and ebook editions would not be updated to include the sexual assault allegations.
Since last autumn, dozens of women have come forward to accuse Cosby of sexual assaults over several decades. Now 78, the comedian has never been charged with a crime and publicly denies the claims.
But the scandal has seen him blacklisted by television networks and vilified by many famous former fans.
Simon & Schuster also said this week that it had pulled all the celebrity blurbs from the book’s Amazon listing, including praise from comedians Jerry Seinfeld and David Letterman, who had reportedly requested their names be removed from the publicity materials.
Last November, amid the torrent of accusations against Cosby, the late New York Times media commentator David Carr wrote a scathing column implicating those in the media – including himself – who had previously “enabled” Cosby by failing to follow up on the women’s claims. In response to the column, Mr Whitaker tweeted an apparent mea culpa, saying: “I was wrong to not deal with the sexual assault charges against Cosby and pursue them more aggressively.”
A former editor of Newsweek and high-ranking executive at CNN and NBC News, Mr Whitaker told the Daily Beast at the time that he had decided not to include the sexual assault allegations in his book because they were just that: allegations.
“As a biographer, you’re really trying to say ‘I’m painting a scene for you. Here you are in the room. This is what happened,’” he said. “When you’re writing a book, you want to make sure it’s really accurate, that you can stand behind it, because once it’s out it’s not like a piece in a newspaper or even a news magazine that you can correct quickly.”
Most of the sexual misconduct claims against Cosby are beyond the Statute of Limitations, but the fallen star may yet see the inside of a courtroom, after the California Supreme Court this week allowed a civil suit against the comedian to go forward, potentially leading to a trial.
The lawsuit in question was filed by Judith Huth, who claims Cosby assaulted her at the Playboy Mansion in 1974, when she was just 15. On Wednesday, the Court denied Mr Cosby’s petition to review the case; Ms Huth’s lawyers said they intend to take a deposition from Cosby within 30 days.
On Saturday The New York Times published extracts from Cosby’s 2005 deposition in another case, in which he admitted having acquired drugs to give to women with the aim of having sex with them. He insisted, however, that the “rendezvous” were always consensual.
The 2005 lawsuit, which was settled out of court, had been filed by Andrea Constand, a former basketball administrator at Temple University in Philadelphia, who accused Cosby of drugging and molesting her.
The Times said it obtained the documents via a court reporting service, but Cosby this week filed court papers demanding “sanctions” against Ms Constand because, Cosby claimed, she and her lawyers “are intent on reneging on what they promised [in the settlement] – confidentiality and finality”.Reuse content