R&B singer and actress Jill Scott has become the latest African-American celebrity to come to the defense of embattled comedian Bill Cosby, who has been accused in the last few weeks of multiple sexual assaults dating from the past several decades.
Although Cosby has never been charged with a crime, the controversy has cost him high-profile performances, a TV show in development with NBC, and ties to his alma maters Temple University and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
On Monday, Scott, who received an honorary degree from Cosby at Temple this summer, passionately defended Cosby on social media, and her stance has led to clashes with some of her fans.
“I’m respecting a man who has done more for the image of Brown people that almost anyone EVER. From Fat Albert to the Huxtables,” she tweeted at one follower who questioned her defense of an alleged sex offender.
The performer, like many Cosby supporters, has cited the lack of physical evidence as part of her argument that there has been a rush to judgment. She went on to say that she fears the media is trying to destroy a “magnificent legacy.”
Scott’s comments come on the heels of recent controversial remarks comedian Faizon Love made in Cosby’s defense during the media firestorm over the allegations. He called Hannibal Buress, a fellow comic whose reference to Cosby’s alleged sexual assaults helped the story gain traction, a “house n—a,” a term which is meant to imply racial betrayal. In increasingly vulgar tweets, Love hurled insults at Cosby’s accusers and suggested that black critics of the comedian were hopping on a “bandwagon.”
Not all of Cosby’s black contemporaries have been quite so sanguine. Comedian Chris Rock, who has regularly cited Cosby as a major influence, suggested in a widely publicized New York Magazine interview that the scandal may have sidelined the 77-year-old former sitcom star for good.
“I hope it’s not true. That’s all you can say. I really do. I grew up on Cosby. I love Cosby, and I just hope it’s not true,” said Rock. “It’s a weird year for comedy. We lost Robin [Williams], we lost Joan [Rivers], and we kind of lost Cosby.”
Cosby has been continuing to tour and refusing to answer questions about the allegations being made against him. His attorneys have previously said the “Cosby Show” star would not “dignify” the accusations with a response. Later, in an official statement to NBC News, Cosby attorney Marty Singer said, “The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40 or ever 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity.”