Several prominent stars have weighed in on drugging and sexual assault allegations against comedian Bill Cosby as protests continue to follow his ongoing stand up tour.
Former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno, who frequently had Cosby appear alongside him as a guest, told fellow comic Tom Papa, “I don’t know why it’s so hard to believe women,” during a Q&A session at the National Association of Television Program Executives conference in Miami on Wednesday.
“You go to Saudi Arabia and you need two women to testify against a man. Here you need 25,” he added. Cosby has not been charged with a crime and has himself and through attorneys denied the allegations made against him.
Leno’s remarks come of the heels on new comments made by Cosby’s former co-star Malcolm Jamal-Warner and “Nightly Show” host Larry Wilmore. Warner famously played Cosby’s son Theo on the iconic sitcom “The Cosby Show” from 1984 to 1992. In an interview with Billboard magazine, Warner said, “I can’t really speak on any of the allegations because obviously, I was not there. The Bill Cosby I know has been great to me and great for a lot of people. I can’t speak on the other stuff.”
“Just as it’s painful to hear any woman talk about sexual assault, whether true or not, it’s just as painful to watch my friend and mentor go through this,” he added. Warner’s remarks were in the same vein as his former “Cosby Show” co-stars Keshia Knight Pulliam and Raven-Symone, who both said the allegations against Cosby were news to them and not consistent with the man they grew up working with. Cosby’s longtime TV wife, Phylicia Rashad, has made far more controversial statements regarding the scandal, implying that the allegations against Cosby may be part of a conspiracy to destroy the 77-year-old legend’s reputation.
“This is about something else. This is about the obliteration of a legacy,” Rashad said in an ABC News interview earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Wilmore dedicated the entire episode of his new Comedy Central series “The Nightly Show” to the “hurricane of horror still swirling around” Cosby. On the show, Wilmore took defenders of Cosby to task, arguing that the over 30 women who have alleged inappropriate behavior on the comedian’s part can’t all be lying. “That’s like if Bill Cosby drugged and raped every U.S. President from George Washington to John F. Kennedy,” Wilmore joked.
Wilmore also knocked the name of Cosby’s current stand-up tour – “Far From Finished” – as “tone deaf comedy jam.” That tour has become increasingly besieged by hecklers and protests in recent weeks. According to The Denver Post, nearly 40% of tickets sold for Cosby’s recent appearances at the Buell Theatre in Colorado have been returned for refunds. Director-producer Judd Apatow and attorney Gloria Allred (who represents several of Cosby’s accusers in a defamation suit against the comedian) have been vocal in criticizing venues from continuing to host Cosby in the wake of the controversy.
Cosby himself has steadfastly remained silent in public about the allegations. Still, at a recent show in Ontario, Canada when a female in the front row got up to get a beverage and asked Cosby if he wanted one, he reportedly joked: “You have to be careful about drinking around me.”