This article has been updated.
LOS ANGELES — Bill Cosby sued supermodel Beverly Johnson for defamation on Monday, calling her a liar over her claims that the comedian drugged and attempted to sexually assault her in the 1980s.
Cosby’s lawsuit contends Johnson has been using the story to try to rekindle her career.
Johnson’s “false allegations against Mr. Cosby have been the centerpiece of her attempted resurgence and she has played them to the hilt, repeatedly and maliciously publishing the false accusations in articles, interviews, and television appearances,” Cosby’s lawsuit states.
It seeks unspecified damages and an injunction preventing the model from repeating her claims that the comedian drugged her with a cappuccino in his New York home in the 1980s. Johnson, 63, first described the incident in a piece for Vanity Fair magazine, and has recounted it and her angry reaction to Cosby in several interviews and a memoir released in August.
“I am aware of the statements from Bill Cosby,” Johnson said in a statement released late Monday. “In cases of rape and abuse, abusers will do whatever they can to intimidate and weaken their victims to force them to stop fighting. I ask for your support of all of the victims involved.”
Cosby’s lawsuit states that a dinner described by Johnson was attended by his wife and he never spent time alone with the supermodel.Cosby’s response comes in the wake of counterclaims his attorneys filed last week in a Massachusetts federal court against seven women who are suing him there for defamation. Those women contend Cosby defamed them by allowing his representatives to brand them as liars.
In the countersuit, Cosby claims the women made “malicious, opportunistic, and false and defamatory accusations” of sexual misconduct against him that are “nothing more than an opportunistic attempt to extract financial gain from him.”
The lawsuit against Johnson is the latest legal salvo from Cosby, who is a defendant in five civil cases filed in Los Angeles, Massachusetts and Pittsburgh. Since late 2014, more than 50 women — most of whom have not sued — have accused the comedian of sexual abuse dating back decades. Cosby has never been criminally charged.
Cosby’s attorneys on Friday asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by Renita Hill, who lives near Pittsburgh and has accused the comedian of drugging and having sex with her several times after they met on a children’s educational TV show in 1983.
She went public with her allegations in a KDKA-TV news interview on Nov. 20, 2014 and contends blanket denials that Cosby sexually abused women issued since by the comedian, his wife and his attorney make Hill out to be a “liar” and an “extortionist.”
Cosby’s attorneys noted that those denials didn’t refer to Hill by name or otherwise identify her. And even if they did, they are protected speech, they contend.
That’s because statements that Cosby’s accusers have engaged in “innuendo” or are otherwise motivated by greed are mere opinions, according to Hill’s legal request to dismiss the lawsuit.“Opinion, as a matter of law, is constitutionally protected and cannot support a plaintiff’s defamation claim,” the request says.
“None of what’s in Cosby’s motion is of any surprise at all. These are the legal arguments we expected of him,” Hill’s attorney, George Kontos, said in an email Monday “Renita’s claims are viable both from a factual and legal standpoint, and we look forward to setting forth our position in the brief we will be filing with the court.”
Cosby, 78, has yet to respond publicly to Hill’s allegations that he drugged and had sex with her several times after they met on the TV show, “Picture Pages,” in 1983. Hill claims that went on for about four years, starting when she was 16, and that Cosby helped pay for her college and would fly her to cities where he was performing and provide her with hotel rooms where he’d have sex with her, until she cut off contact with him.