Why Did Cosby’s Damning Deposition Take So Long to Surface?

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Remember that sealed deposition that the Cosby team tried mightily — and failed — to keep from going public? Turns out the full transcript of the deposition might have been available all along. This weekend, the New York Times unearthed the documents and published the most disturbing parts, including the details that we already knew about Cosby obtaining Quaaludes from his doctor to offer to his female “guests”:

Q. You testified that [the doctor] knew you were not going to take them. And I’d like to — explain your answer. How did he know that, or why do you say he knew that? A. What was happening at that time was that that was — Quaaludes happen to be the drug that kids, young people were using to party with and there were times when I wanted to have them just in case.

It continues on in that same vein:

Q. Why didn’t you ever take the Quaaludes? A. Because I used them. Q. For what? A. The same as a person would say have a drink. Cosby’s statements in the deposition, which the Times describes as a mix of jocular, testy, and truculent, doesn’t in any way make it clear that the comedian and actor did anything tantamount to assault — but it’s damning nonetheless, particularly in regards to his use of drugs on other people. His own testimony also does a lot of work to reveal Cosby as a giant hypocrite — and, to use a colloquialism, something of a sleazy operator. The would-be family man famous for his “pull your pants up” lectures was also by all appearances a person who had at the very least a somewhat callous attitude towards women, and a really practiced ability to lie and keep secrets, definitely from his wife Camille, and possibly also from himself. As the Times reporters describe him, he comes across as “an unapologetic, cavalier playboy, someone who used a combination of fame, apparent concern and powerful sedatives in a calculated pursuit of young women — a profile at odds with the popular image he so long enjoyed, that of father figure and public moralist.” But it seems like denial wasn’t just Cosby’s, or his wife’s, territory —it was society-wide, spreading from the media to the public, and leaving his many accusers in the lurch. It’s hard not to wish that more enterprising members of the media had looked into this deposition a long time ago. We know that the existence of these hearings was public and, in fact, widely covered. In November, the late David Carr wrote a truly insightful and self-searching column regretting that he and many others had been scared, by the perils of reporting on rape and on the foibles of the revered, of digging in to the Cosby allegations. It was messy, it was hard to pin down, and “Mr. Cosby was not interested in being questioned, in being challenged in any way,” Carr wrote. “By this point in his career, he was surrounded by ferocious lawyers and stalwart enablers and he felt it was beneath him to submit to the queries of mere mortals.” Carr continued: He was certain of his own certainty and had very little time for the opinions of others. Mr. Cosby, as all of those who did profiles on him have pointed out, was never just an entertainer, but a signal tower of moral rectitude. Yet as Carr rightly noted, it was Cosby’s moralizing persona that eventually caught up with him, providing fodder for Hannibal Burress’ viral moment and eventually forcing further scrutiny. It’s always easier, in hindsight, to say “we should have” — and given the ethical issues that come with reporting on rape, there’s a level at which it’s understandable that reporters shied away from looking into these allegations. But just think what an intern with a database could have found before any of the “controversy” of the past year surfaced. A more thorough search into court documents like these might have spared some of Cosby’s accusers the media coal-raking they received, or the feeling of having been discredited and ignored. More pertinently, an earlier revelation might have helped them obtain justice before the statute of limitations on their accusations had been exceeded. For years, people — journalists, watchdogs, members of the public — listened to Cosby’s assurances, listened to our fears, listened to the voices that said, “Let it go.” We should have been listening to the accusers, and following their voices to a paper trail that was waiting to be found.