The Ugly Words of Bill Cosby

A ten-year-old deposition published by The New York Times draws an even sharper contrast with the comedian’s once-pristine image.

Comedian Bill Cosby performs at The Temple Buell Theatre in Denver, Colorado January 17, 2015.  (Barry Gutierrez/Reuters)

Thirty-six women have accused Bill Cosby, once one of America’s most beloved actors and comedians, of sexual misbehavior. The 77-year-old star, who has not been charged with a crime, has publicly denied these accusations. But a new legal document now reveals that the pattern of behavior described by many of the accusers—that Cosby drugged them before initiating sexual contact—were acknowledged by the comedian himself.

On Saturday, The New York Times published excerpts from a deposition Cosby gave in 2005, in a civil lawsuit brought by one of his accusers, Andrea Constand. (The two settled out of court in 2006.) The information obtained in the deposition isn’t new. But the transcript is nonetheless remarkable for the presence of Cosby’s words—and their stark ugliness.

In an excerpt presented by The Times, Andrea Costand’s attorney asks Cosby how he could be so certain that the alleged sexual encounter was consensual. His response: “I walk her out. She does not look angry. She does not say to me, don’t ever do that again. ”

Later in the deposition, Cosby cooly describes how he broke off a physical relationship with Beth Ferrier, another woman who accused him of drugging and molesting her:

Q. How did it end with her?

A. Stopped calling for rendezvous.

Q. You stopped?

A. Yes.

Q. Why?

A. Just moving on.

Q. What does that mean?

A. Don’t want to see her anymore.

In a comedy album released in 1978, Cosby stated his opposition to marijuana and cocaine, describing the latter as an illegal drug where “you could not be sure what you are getting.” Yet such uncertainty didn’t prevent him from obtaining powerful depressants for use in his sexual conquests—though Cosby was careful to avoid taking the drugs himself.

“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.”

During his decades in the public eye, Cosby assumed a role as a fierce critic of contemporary African American morality. In a biting stand-up routine from the 1980s, Eddie Murphy hilariously recounted receiving a phone call from Cosby complaining about his frequent on-stage profanity. Years later, in his famous “Pound Cake” speech delivered on the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, he decried black use of “backward” clothing and the prevalence of urban slang:

We’ve got to take the neighborhood back. We’ve got to go in there. Just forget telling your child to go to the Peace Corps. It’s right around the corner. It’s standing on the corner. It can’t speak English. It doesn’t want to speak English. I can’t even talk the way these people talk. “Why you ain’t where you is go, ra,” I don’t know who these people are. And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. Then I heard the father talk. This is all in the house. You used to talk a certain way on the corner and you got into the house and switched to English. Everybody knows it’s important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can’t land a plane with “why you ain’t …” You can’t be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth. There is no Bible that has that kind of language.

Cosby is hardly the first celebrity whose private misbehavior contrasts with a pristine public image, and he won’t be the last. But the contrast between his moralizing rhetoric and private misdeeds is particularly stark.

Last fall, when the sexual assault allegations against Cosby resurfaced, Ta-Nehisi Coates revisited his earlier essay published in The Atlantic about the comedian:

In that essay, there is a brief and limp mention of the accusations against Cosby. Despite my opinions on Cosby suffusing the piece, there was no opinion offered on the rape accusations. This is not because I did not have an opinion. I felt at the time that I was taking on Cosby's moralizing and wanted to stand on those things that I could definitively prove. Lacking physical evidence, adjudicating rape accusations is a murky business for journalists. But believing Bill Cosby does not require you to take one person's word over another—it requires you take one person's word over 15 others.

Now that more of Cosby’s actual words are in the public record, their sheer ugliness make them the opposite of exculpatory.