On Tuesday afternoon, the actor and comedian Bill Cosby was formally designated a sexually violent predator and sentenced to three to 10 years in prison for drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand in his home outside of Philadelphia in 2004. Cosby was denied bail and ordered to prison immediately. The man once known as “America’s Dad” left the Norristown, Pennsylvania, courtroom in handcuffs, making his departure in an undone white shirt and red suspenders.
After Cosby was taken into custody, his publicist, Andrew Wyatt, made a string of distasteful but revelatory remarks. “I believe and think it is important to point out that this has been the most racist and sexist trial in the history of the United States,” Wyatt said, before suggesting that Cosby’s accusers were “white women who make money off of accusing black men of being sexual predators.” Later, Wyatt went on to make a particularly bizarre but since-repeated claim: “They persecuted Jesus and look what happened,” he added. “Not saying Mr. Cosby’s Jesus, but we know what this country has done to black men for centuries.”
Wyatt’s comparison, blasphemous though it may be, neatly crystallizes the tenor of the support Cosby has received in the wake of the accusations against him (and the ensuing criminal trial). While many have hailed the comedian’s conviction and sentencing as a victory for his accusers and for the #MeToo movement writ large, Cosby has also enjoyed an outpouring of sympathy—or at least skepticism—from people who believe his downfall to be the result of a racist conspiracy. Wyatt’s comments may be provocative, but they are not new. “What you’re seeing is the destruction of a legacy. And I think it’s orchestrated,” the actor’s Cosby Show co-star Phylicia Rashad said in 2015 following reports of allegations against Cosby. “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.”