Phylicia Rashad Wants Us to “Forget These Women” Accusing Bill Cosby. We Can’t.

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Cosby Show costar Phylicia Rashad has come to the defense of her TV husband, citing a “conspiracy” that amounts to dozens of separate rape and drugging and attempted assault accusations against the star.

“Forget these women,” she told Roger Friedman of Showbiz 411, in a conversation at an industry event. “What you’re seeing is the destruction of a legacy. And I think it’s orchestrated. I don’t know why or who’s doing it, but it’s the legacy. And it’s a legacy that is so important to the culture.” She continued: “Someone is determined to keep Bill Cosby off TV… and it’s worked. All his contracts have been canceled.”

Reminiscent of Diane Keaton’s defense of Woody Allen, this moment demands the question: what moral authority do an accused person’s Hollywood co-stars really possess to comment on his or her off-screen transgressions? What exactly do any of us gain by hearing from Rashad?

It’s disappointing, of course, that Rashad would be so dismissive of other women — but not surprising. No one wants to think the worst of someone they trust, and someone with whom they built an unquestionably valuable artistic legacy.

The problem is, we did forget “these women,” for many years, letting the legacy of the comedian trump the whispers, the accusations, and even the court case.

But we can’t now, because their stories need to be heard. They are too similar to each other, and to the stories of victims in all industries where the powerful prey on the powerless.

We won’t forget the words of Katherine McKee, who said of Cosby, “We were still standing at the door when he attacked me. It was so fast and so shocking and so unbelievable,” or Victoria Valentino, who said, “It was like a waking nightmare.”

We won’t forget Beverly Johnson’s essay in Vanity Fair: “My head became woozy, my speech became slurred, and the room began to spin nonstop… As I felt my body go completely limp, my brain switched into automatic-survival mode.”

We won’t forget Janice Dickinson, who talked to E! about the ramifications of her experience: “Stuffing feelings of rape and my unresolved issues with this incident has drove me into a life of trying to hurt myself because I didn’t have counsel and I was afraid.”

We won’t forget Barbara Bowman, who wrote her story: “he pinned me down in his own bed while I screamed for help.”

And we won’t forget the other 20 accusers, some of whom we know only by first name, who have each at some point spoken up about alleged improper, line-crossing, or downright criminal behavior at the hands of Cosby.

The only conspiracy ever at work here was rape culture, which silenced so many victims that it took decades for a pattern to be established.