ABC's "Nightline" gained an exclusive interview with Cosby that aired on June 29. They filmed Cosby's speech in St. Louis. It was so passionate, so eloquent, so persuasive. Reporter Michel McQueen acknowledged that Cosby wins critics over when he comes into troubled communities and brings hard truths to the people there.
Cosby's words speak volumes. "I'm saying to the lower-income African-American community, those of you who are living and seeing things that oughtn't be, those of you who are feeling afraid of your own people: There was a time when we were not afraid of our own children. We were not afraid of our friends' children. There was a time."
How can one oppose that vision?
The crowning irony of Cosby's critics is their need to dip into the fact that Cosby has not lived a sterling personal life in his own right. ABC's McQueen felt she had to bring it up. Do "your own foibles, true or untrue, somehow disqualify you from these issues?" In 1997, the networks all covered at length the paternity squabble with Autumn Jackson, who was Cosby's illegitimate daughter, and was convicted of extorting him. Since then, there have been other accusations of impropriety. Cosby replied that if he were waving off incoming traffic from an accident scene, would you not pay attention?
Maybe the question "had to be asked," as McQueen claimed. Maybe it's a fair question -- if it was evenly applied by the media. But it's ironic that a man who is touting fidelity and talking about character-building, a comedian and a celebrity, draws more questions about allegations of his moral failings than media outlets or black leaders ever asked of presidents or civil rights leaders. Would McQueen suggest Martin Luther King's infidelity disqualified him from speaking out?
The civil suits swirling around Cosby now, accusing him of inappropriate conduct, may be true or untrue. But Cosby's crusade has certainly brought him great scrutiny, scrutiny he might have avoided entirely had he comfortably retired and left the "ghettocracy" to run the inner city. It's a point lost on his critics, but worthy of consideration.