So, About That Bill Cosby/NBC Thing…

Unless you live under a rock next to a Brooklyn brownstone, you’ve heard about Bill Cosby – once America’s Dad and now accused party in 58 claims of sexual assault – being indicted for a 2004 sexual assault case on December 30. You’d probably have to be living under a rock and also be without cell-phone service as well, since every form of both mainstream and social media has been flooded with coverage, speculation, and conspiracy theories galore. The latter is our concern today, but let’s summarize the facts of the main case first.

The case, originally reported by alleged victim Andrea Constand – a former employee of Cosby’s alma mater, Temple University – was filed in 2005, but prosecutor (and later Montgomery County, PA district attorney) Bruce Castor declined to file charges. Constand instead sued Cosby in civil court, and after 13 Jane Does agreed to testify against Cosby, he settled with Constand out of court with a payout in 2006. Cosby’s testimony from that civil case was leaked to the public this past July by federal judge Eduardo C. Robreno, following several months that had seen the story re-enter the public consciousness and dozens of other accusers come forward to relay stories of Cosby assaulting or attempting to drug and assault them. It is that testimony – of which you can read Deadspin’s coverage and the documents themselves here – that convinced then-current Montgomery County’s D.A. Risa Vetri Ferman to re-open the case and file charges, as the statute of limitations on Constand’s case expired this month.

Now that we done got that out the way…

My social media timeline, as well as those of many other Black and brown people, are flooded with Cosby apologists – many of them people hardcore fans of The Cosby Show and its spin-off, A Different World, who are unable or unwilling to separate Dr. William H. Cosby from The Cosby Show‘s affable patriarch, Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable. Given that Cosby was of monumental importance to the history and evolution of depictions of black families on television, and that the program has now been largely withdrawn from television syndication (but is still up on Hulu), the consensus among many is that the Cosby scandal is some form of an attack on not just an important and successful Black figure, but on Blackness and the Black family in general (hi, Eddie Griffin and Fazion Love).

“Why are they picking on Bill?” has been a common refrain over the last few days, never mind the last week. Many have proposed he’s being framed for having affairs, behind the back of Camille Cosby, his wife of over 50 years, with “a bunch of white women”. Others have proposed that The Cosby Show – a #1 sitcom that featured an upper-middle-class family run by a doctor father and a lawyer mother – did too much good for Black Americans, and we had to be told in no uncertain terms that we could never aspire to reach those heights of financial stability. The most popular conspiracy, by far, is that Cosby was “about to buy NBC”, and therefore “the powers that be” – the Illuminati, the secret cabal people imagine Hollywood to be, whoever – hired nearly 60 crisis actresses to take Cosby down and destroy his legacy. Lest, of course, he get his hands on the National Broadcasting Company and use it to, once and for all, save Black people from themselves using the magic and power of the waning medium of over-the-air broadcast television.

I’m here to tell you why, in no uncertain terms, none of that NBC stuff makes sense. What’s actually happened is that people have conflated two stories involving Cosby and NBC into one via the game of Internet telephone, so let’s separate them back out again, using those oft-ignored things called facts.

Now, it is true that Bill Cosby wanted to buy NBC. The problem is that he wanted to buy NBC back in October 1992, not in October 2014 when Hannibal Buress told a few jokes at his expense during a stand-up routine. Back in 1992, NBC had been having ratings trouble for quite some time. The Cosby Show had fallen out of the top ten and the decision was made to end the show in 1992. Only two of the top 10 shows on TV in the 1991-92 United States television seasonUnsolved Mysteries and Cheers – originated on NBC’s air.

To that end, quite a few outside entities made offers to NBC’s parent company, General Electric (yes, the light-bulb and refrigerator people) to take the beleaguered network off the company’s hands. Before Cosby’s offer, NBC reportedly had to turn away an offer from Paramount Communications (predecessor of Viacom). Instead of buying NBC, Paramount Communications ended up hiring away Brandon Tartikoff, president of NBC’s entertainment programming division, to become chairman of Paramount Pictures in 1991.

Cosby’s offer came roughly a year or two after Paramount’s. As reported in the October 29, 1992 edition of The New York Times, Norman Brokaw, Cosby’s longtime agent, met with Bob Wright, president and CEO of the NBC network, on behalf of Cosby to inquire about possibly purchasing the network. As Cosby’s total net worth in 1992 was $300 million, and the estimated worth of NBC, Inc. was about $4 billion, Cosby clearly wasn’t going to be able to buy the whole network himself, and to that end he and his lawyer, Herbert Chaice, had begun corralling outside investors. Cosby planned of course to be “one of a number of principals” in this consortium, according to Chaice, even though in order for that to happen, Cosby would need roughly 14 or 15 other investors to go in with him so that he could attain one of the largest shares of NBC.

There was only one problem: NBC was “not for sale”, Bob Wright told Norman Brokaw. This was the same answer he’d given Paramount; note that I’ve yet to see Majestic Mountain or any of the stars around it accused of sexual assault. Cosby may have wanted to buy it, but if GE didn’t want to sell, they didn’t have to and weren’t going to.

Someone who was clearly a troll (egg avatar, unreasonable tone, not making sense; all signs) on Twitter tried to argue that “NBC is publicly traded” and therefore “always for sale” (by, one would assume, a hostile takeover of the type Rupert Murdock tried with Time Warner a year ago, but more likely something this Twitter troll heard of via Empire).

(Warning: strong language)
Screenshot of tweets about Bill Cosby/NBC discussion

However, NBC’s never been an independent corporation; never, not once, in its 90-year history. RCA was NBC’s original parent company, and General Electric actually owned RCA during NBC’s first four years of existence until antitrust issues forced GE to spin RCA off. GE bought RCA again in 1986, broke it apart, keeping some assets (NBC among them) and selling off others.

NBC thereafter remained a subsidiary of GE until 2003 – 12 years after Cosby tried to buy it – at which time NBC was merged with Vivendi’s Universal Studios to form the entertainment conglomerate NBCUniversal, of which Vivendi owned 51% and GE retained 49%. Comcast eventually bought first Vivendi’s and then GE’s interest in NBCUniversal, and NBC now belongs to them.

When the Andrea Constand case first turned up in 2005, speculation did abound even then that Cosby was being “punished” for his success and trying to buy NBC. When the Hannibal Buress thing happened seven years later, this rumor resurfaced, fused with the news that NBC was canceling an in-development pilot for a new sitcom that would star the now-septuagenarian Cosby (a fully-produced Netflix stand-up special was also shelved). As often happens with these rumors, this misinformation spread via tweets, Facebook posts, and poor screenshots of Instagram memes (aside: if you want to share something online, why not just “save-as”? Why do your Instagram shares look like printouts from a fax machine in need of a new ink cartridge?). And since its Bill Cosby, and the idea feeds preexisting conspiracy theories about the entertainment industry, it’s easy for people to believe, facts be damned.

The Bill Cosby scandal, due to the sheer number of accusers coming forward and the accused being, well, Bill Cosby, is going to be the sort of news story that’s going to foster all sorts of speculation parallel or perpendicular to the actual facts of the case. However, wild speculation about entertainment business dealings that are easily debunked by typing G-O-O-G-L-E-dot-C-O-M into a browser sort of bug me. Hence this article. So, if you need a reason for why Cosby’s been accused of sexual assault by over four dozen women that doesn’t involve the direct facts in the cases, please try to pick one that’s not so clearly false.

Thanks in advance.

23 Comments

  1. Phil

    January 5, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    No…Thank YOU.

  2. Angela

    January 5, 2016 at 9:51 pm

    So you still haven’t answered why Hannibal Buress, a completely unknown comic, had his entire bit on Cosby video taped and posted all over the Internet about Cosby. No one knew who he was and albeit for the Cosby reference, no one would know who he is now. It doesn’t make sense that the reference would have exploded the way it did.

    • Brandon

      January 5, 2016 at 10:19 pm

      Hannibal Buress was actually fairly popular among up-and-coming Black comics at the time he did that set in October 2014, both from his stand-up and his appearances on The Eric Andre Show and Broad City. He certainly had enough of a following among people in the 25 to 39 age range to have someone record his set with a phone.

      GQ has a write-up on Buress here: http://www.gq.com/story/hannibal-buress-bill-cosby-comedy-central

    • Jean

      January 6, 2016 at 1:14 am

      I was at the Hannibal show in philly because I was already a fan of his stand up work. They were strict about not having phones in there and if you see the video that was leaked it’s poor quality and clearly wasn’t done on the sneak tip. BTW it wasn’t his whole bit at all, it was a very small part of the show… and was hilarious

    • Stephen

      January 6, 2016 at 2:12 am

      He had two hit comedy albums and had been a writer for Saturday Night Live by then, far from an unknown comic.

    • Abert

      January 6, 2016 at 9:46 am

      You are one of the few with a thinking brain. Most people just buy what they are told without critical thinking and reasoning. No one knew who the hell Hannibal Burress was. He was used as the person to blame it on and he was well paid. This was to say…that it wasn’t white folks, it was a black person who started this. Bulls–t! Half the women were all ready proven lying. And this dude who wrote this has the facts wrong especially about Constand. She originally told the cops that Cosby did not touch her vagina she also said it in her deposition when she was asked. And the reason the DA did not press charges then, it was because 1. She told conflicting stories. 2. She filed the complaint a whole year later in Canada, it was then forwarded to PA authorities. 3. When she made the report the DA investigated her and Cosby and even after she made the claim they found that she was still visiting and hanging with Cosby.

      Cosby called her a liar in a Phily News paper saying that she was trying to get money from him. She claimed he was defaming her. So since she no grounds or evidence for a criminal case, she filed a civil suit based on “defamation” and then the attorney added in her allegations of alleged drugging and sexual battery. She was only able to file the civil suit based on defamation for what Cosby told the newspapers.

      She nevery had grounds for a civil case. What Cosby said in his deposition was that he had qualudes, and he used them with women who he had sexual encounter with. He was referring to one specific woman in the 70’s not Constand. And qualudes were not around in 2004, so he did not give her qualudes. The original accusation was that he drugged her. Now it has changed to her saying he “urged” her to take pills and wine. So she just confirmed that she was not given anything without her knowledge. There is no new evidence. There never was any. All the new DA is referring to as evidence, is that since the original accusation, additional women came forward and the fact that he admitted to having qualudes in the 70’s.

      That info has been out there. So thenew DA is full of s–t. He jumped on to become known as the DA who arrested Dr. COSBY. He was trying to fill his campaign promise.

      This will be thrown out. Now whoever wrote this piece…Your facts are completely false and inaccurate. Get off the Cosby bandwagon.

      And Bill Clinton was accused of rape by 16 women when he was governor. And guess what black folks and the American public who Hates rape so much did? They voted him in to office for two terms. Never lynched him on social media, never called people who refer to him as the first black president rape apologist, never demanded for his aculades to be taken away, and they are are now going to vote for his wife who called these women liars and defended a man who brutally raped a 12 year old girl and put her in a coma.

      I bet this author voted for I’ll Clinton too. #hypocrisy.

    • JustTheFacts

      January 6, 2016 at 10:04 am

      Hannibal Burress may not be popular on the urban comedy circuit, but he is far from unknown in the mainstream. Sold out tours, reoccurring roles on TV shows, movie roles, appearances on late night shows. And he didn’t do anything different from most comedians before him who cracked jokes about controversial subjects and people.

      • lockel

        January 6, 2016 at 6:38 pm

        you dont make sense there are no black comics who are known on the mainstream that is not known on the urban market infact as a person involved in show biz it is a known fact that the mainstream wont touch an artist that isnt proving in the urban market first, thats like a bank giving you a loan with no collateral not happening

        • Charles

          January 7, 2016 at 1:48 am

          Umm Wayne Brady is mainstream and does horrible in urban markets lol.

        • Lixer

          January 9, 2016 at 1:41 am

          Yes there are. Hannibal as JustTheFacts mentioned. Craig Robinson wasn’t also known for awhile in the urban market. He played a token in a lot of “white” movies.

    • Sarah

      January 6, 2016 at 7:54 pm

      Good point, Angela! I mean, we’re all aware that only well-known people can make things go viral, right?

    • Paul Beaulieu

      January 6, 2016 at 9:58 pm

      Unknown to you does not equal “completely unknown”. People really need to be careful about making generalizations based entirely on their personal perception. It is a bit like me saying that because I only heard of REM in the late 1980’s, they were “completely unknown” before 1989.

      See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannibal_Buress

  3. Stock Trader

    January 6, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Why didn’t the writer state that General Electric sold NBC Universal to Comcast in 2009 and that both General Electric and Comcast are publicly traded companies on US stock exchanges? The trading symbol for Comcast is CMCSA and the trading symbol for General Electric is GE. Ownership interest is continuously available for purchase.

    • Brandon

      January 7, 2016 at 12:18 am

      General Electric didn’t sell NBCUniversal to Comcast in 2009. Rather, Vivendi sold their interest to Comcast at this time, and Comcast acquired GE’s interest in 2013.

      Yes, interest in publicly traded companies like GE and Comcast can be purchased at any time. However, if Cosby didn’t have the money to buy NBC, how was he going to fund a purchase of a controlling share of General Electric in 1992?

  4. RPADC

    January 6, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    Hope you got the SEO crackin’ on this post, because idiots can’t stop, won’t stop.

  5. dodac123

    January 6, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    Settling out of court is not an admittance of guilt, it’s a don’t want to waste my time in court airing dirty laundry move. Drugging over three dozen women would make you a serial rapist. Cosby is from the era of quaaludes and he is not the only Star scoring drugs for women….in steps molly, which you young whipper snappers are more familiar with. So if you and a chick are vibing and you give her a molly and you have sex with her (which is where the date would end with anyway) did yo rape her or were you’ll partying. All of these women knew Mr. Cosby was a married man why didn’t that stop them from getting themselves into a compromising position. These encounters didn’t happen at a club and he spiked their drinks and proceeded to sneak them out the back door. Those women are not fools, unless now all women are claiming they don’t know when a guy is coming on to them. Some of these women are educated women with intelligence. Its not just that he was trying to buy NBC it is the list of investors he was gathering to do so. I don’t know what country you live in, but in America anything is for sale for the right price including testimonies, that is the nature of capitalism. Plus a large majority of those women who claimed to have been raped also admitted to a continued sexual relationship with Mr. Cosby I didn’t see that in your article. You seem to only state the facts that prove your point. I think you should re-write it and include all the facts, if it is facts that you are out to show. It might just be my common sense, but if I were raped by someone I would go back for seconds even if i didn’t tell anyone about the rape. There is no such thing as coincidence, at the time he is trying to acquire NBC his son is killed on the side of the road in a suspected robbery, the only problem with that is, nothing was taken, and what criminal robs someone in broad daylight on the side of a busy highway. Worlds most dumbest I guess, or someone paid to do so. The sources you point to have been known to get the story completely wrong and/or paint a bias picture. You can see the deposition online. To end, beside lightbulbs, name a GE product you have in your home, those external companies are the only thing keeping GE afloat.

    • Brandon

      January 7, 2016 at 12:24 am

      Thanks for your comments.

      The article isn’t being rewritten, giving a woman an illegal drug like molly and having sex with her without her clear consent is indeed rape, most of the sources used are fairly dry news reports except for the Deadspin article (which still offers reprints of all of the related legal documentation), the article isn’t being rewritten, and, as explained in the article, GE (who, incidentally, made my washer and dryer) no longer owns any part of NBC, so it isn’t keeping them afloat.

      The key point the article has is to refute the urban legend that “Cosby was about to buy NBC.”

      • dodac123

        January 7, 2016 at 10:35 am

        If you notice I said EXTERNAL COMPANIES are keeping GE afloat not NBC. Isn’t that interesting the not for sale NBC no longer belongs to the previous owner, what happened did they give it away? I know they probably sold the not for sale company to someone who didn’t buy it..(did you get it) I might start a career in standup…

        • Brandon

          January 7, 2016 at 11:08 am

          NBC wasn’t for sale – not to Bill Cosby or anyone else – in 1992. GE didn’t sell it until 2013; they even still retained 49% interest in the NBCUniversal merger when they combined NBC with Universal in 2003.

          You can’t buy a subsidiary of a corporation from another corporation if they do not want to sell it. When and if they do is their decision.

      • Thierry

        January 7, 2016 at 3:19 pm

        This article is clearly biased. I feel like Cosby is a serial cheater, since he was married the whole time he was doing his dirt. I don’t think he raped any of these women.

        Who gets raped and continue to go back for more? Who gets drugged, pass out and remember being touched and fondled. A lot about this don’t make any sense.

        I don’t see anybody crucifying the father from 7th Heaven for pedophilia or Jared the Subway guy for child pornography. One admitted to molesting a child and the other got busted for child pornography. But no one is talking about these guys. Everybody wants to go after Bill Cosby with no proof though. Insensible!

        • g

          January 7, 2016 at 8:42 pm

          You are soooo right. I mean who gets sexually abused and continues to live with the abuser? Children, those idiots! They should just move out. And who gets physically assaulted and stays with the abuser? Wives, girlfriends, boyfriends! Also, idiots! And, who allow themselves to be disenfranchised, or underemployed, or neglected? Humans, even more idiots! We should all make victims have to prove they have been victimized by demanding they leave the control of abusers! They are responsible for getting themselves abused, right? Right on! Here’s to killing the victims!

          BTW, comparing a little known television actor from a series of a B list network, that’s been off the air for several years to a multi-emmy winning actor, producer, activist is a little off the beam (just like my obviously satirical post above).

  6. Annonymous

    January 7, 2016 at 1:50 am

    I don’t even care about whether or not this man was trying to buy a network…whether the allegations are true or not. What bugs the CRAP out of me about black people, and articles like this is simple: When Trayvonn was murdered white people raised 2mil for that criminal. When Ferguson happened, they raised other several millions for that “criminal”. When that man shot up a church, what was it..6mil?? Black people are the only ones that wont stick together despite what allegations are true. EVERY OTHER RACE will do this but ours, and THAT is the problem!! He still did good in his life! Let’s preserve THAT.

  7. Carlyle Buggs

    January 7, 2016 at 5:51 am

    This is a a bunch bulls–t. This is not a valid source of information. Just some bias trash trying to prove their irrelevant point. A lot of what you are saying is extremely ignorant. I don’t even want to go into detail but you have no idea what you are talking about with NBC s–t stop making ignorant claims.