Bill Cosby’s Refusal to Address Rape Allegations Shows Shocking Level of Denial

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Bill Cosby has canceled several forthcoming media appearances after over a dozen decades-old rape allegations have resurfaced — and a furor has rightly ensued. But when he does show up to talk about his other work, he’s adamantly refusing to talk about the accusations.

Witness this exchange between NPR host Scott Simon and Cosby, in an interview that also included the comedian’s wife, Camille:

SCOTT SIMON: “This question gives me no pleasure, Mr. Cosby, but there have been serious allegations raised about you in recent days.” BILL COSBY: [SILENCE] SIMON: “You’re shaking your head no. I’m in the news business. I have to ask the question. Do you have any response to those charges?” COSBY: [SILENCE] SIMON: “Shaking your head no. There are people who love you who might like to hear from you about this. I want to give you the chance.” COSBY: [SILENCE] SIMON: “Alright…”

Although the interview was about the Cosbys’ art collection, the seriousness of the accusations prompted the host to bring them up during the conversation, as he later explained on Twitter (read his entire series of tweets here).

It is mind-boggling to consider how unprepared Cosby’s PR team has been for the most recent round of backlash. Between their backfired invitation for his Twitter followers to “meme him” and this weekend’s refusal to speak during the NPR interview, they seem entirely clueless.

To me, it begins to read like Cosby’s “people” are mired in deep denial, acting as though we’re living in an earlier era, when major public figures got away with bad (and even criminal) behavior without being called to account. Which, to be fair, is a strategy that has worked for Cosby up until this point. The many rape accusations disappeared again and again under the weight of his indefatigable PR machine and his mega-stardom. They were even omitted from his biography.

Times have changed. Between a growing public understanding of rape culture and the never-die news cycle of the Internet, charges like these have begun to stick. Even Woody Allen released an (awful, victim-blaming) statement when molestation accusations against him resurfaced. He couldn’t simply hide, and he knew it.

For a long time, remaining mum or tight-lipped worked in these stars’ favor. But now, it reads like the Cosby team has been utterly blindsided. The events of the previous few weeks lend themselves to the interpretation that denial is running rampant in Camp Cosby. Whether this suspect “I can’t hear you!” attitude comes from the comedian himself or from his handlers is the only remaining question.