Cosby's lawyers go on the attack against sexual assault accusations with the "volume does not make it true" defense

With a decade-old deposition coming back to haunt him, Cosby faces new testimony under oath

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published July 23, 2015 7:57PM (EDT)

  (AP/Matt Rourke)
(AP/Matt Rourke)

By now, Bill Cosby must be very tired of waiting for all of this unpleasantness to go away so he can return to being America's most beloved comic patriarch. This is not that week. So it looks like he's going to have to get tough.

These are unpleasant days for the former Jell-o spokesman. Last week, reporters obtained more of the contents from Temple University employee's Andrea Constand's decade-old suit against him and revealed his extramarital activities and that, "He was open about his access in the 1970s to quaaludes, a sedative also popular as a party drug." Jerry Seinfeld and David Letterman have both asked that their effusive blurbs be scrubbed from Mark Whitaker’s 2014 biography "Cosby: His Life and Times" — a bio that conspicuously avoided mentioning the decades of rumors of sexual assault that have dogged the comedian. There's new controversy over whether a Smithsonian Institution exhibition of his art collection should continue. And the Smithsonian itself has "posted a disclaimer online and in the museum saying it does not condone Cosby's alleged behavior."

And now, the California Supreme Court rejected this week his petition to "review earlier rulings" in a case involving an allegation of misconduct 41 years ago. As the Times reports, Judy Huth claims that "In 1974, when she was 15, Mr. Cosby forced her to perform a sex act on him at the Playboy Mansion." Huth's attorney, Gloria Allred, says she would like Cosby deposed as soon as possible.

And Bill Cosby's team is swinging back. Speaking with the Times, his Attorney Monique Pressley brushed off the recent spate of accusations and the contents of the court documents, explaining, "I don’t understand why that’s news. A man having an affair or two or 20, even extramarital affairs, to me is not a news item. It’s history." FYI: affairs are history; alleged assaults should be investigated as possible crimes. I think that's the distinction people are trying to make here.

On Fox Wednesday, Pressley said that "Since a thousand pages are out there — which certainly we were not hoping would happen, but now that it is has — we're asking people to look at it, because what you will find there is that Mr. Cosby denies any criminal wrongdoing. He denies any non-consensual sex with a woman. He denies giving the party substance quaaludes to anyone who did not consent." And on "Good Morning America," she replied to the question of whether so many women could be lying by asserting, "I’m not making conclusions, and you know that I can’t, about whether someone is lying or not. What I am saying is that Mr. Cosby has denied the accusations that have been lodged thus far. The sheer volume, or number of people, who are saying a particular thing does not make it true."

Well, there's one of looking at it. We all understand that when someone is paying you to represent him, your job is to say nope, he didn't do it. If you're Robert Durst's lawyer, you're there to say,  maybe you just need to understand how that body got chopped up. If you're Cosby's you're there to say, but can you prove it? Can we say for absolute certain that every one of the more than three dozen women who've come forward  to say they were in some way sexually assaulted over a span of nearly fifty years is telling the complete and accurate truth? No.

But if even ten percent of those women are telling the truth, you're still looking at someone who seems to fit the description of a serial rapist. Cosby's true blue fans — like the ones who insist Hannibal Buress "sold out" their hero to get a show — don't need persuasion that he's the wronged party here. And while even those who started listening to the women several accusations back would likely agree that volume does not equal truth, as writer Kate Harding aptly summed it up, when you're looking at "He said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said," it may not hold up in court, but it'll hose your legacy quite well. And if you want to talk about history, it should be clear already how it will remember Bill Cosby.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Andrea Constand Bill Cosby Gloria Allred Rape