Thanks to Hannibal Buress’ troll of the year, you’re probably aware of the recent problems that Bill “respectability politics” Cosby has had in the last two weeks. It turns out that an incredibly wealthy person can (allegedly) carry on a hobby of drugging women and raping women for 30 years or so before he faces the consequences of sustained social stigma.
And while enraged public convulsions might be incredibly belated for the actual victims of the (purported) sexual assaults, Cosby is suffering some noticeable public losses. As the NY Times reports, major entertainment companies with pre-existing commitments to the comedian are cutting their losses before they face any more scrutiny for subsidizing the (suspected) serial rapist. Just in the last week Netflix shelved a Cosby special, Viacom’s TV Land stopped their usual block of Cosby Show re-runs, and NBC canceled a Cosby-sponsored pilot project. Hooray, right?
Well those losses just might not be the unquestioned source of cosmic justice that many people (including those of us who hated Cosby before it was cool) desire. Probably right now there are some very worried folks from Netflix, Viacom, and NBC talking to their in house counsel about how much THEY are going to have to pay Cosby to go away quietly because of allegations that (for the most part) have been an open secret for over a decade.
Cosby’s lawyers have more than earned their retainers throughout his career regarding this subject. These attorneys have successfully defended the comedian from being ever charged with a crime relating to these offenses, settled potentially image-damaging civil suits, and have done so while perfectinga strategy of harshly dealing with any journalist who might have the stones to bring up these alleged misdeeds to Cosby himself. Cosby’s representation should also be up for a “contract drafter” of the year award for making sure that their agreement with NBC included a “penalty payment to the comic if the project was terminated early.”
Details about the special with Netflix and the syndication of the Cosby Show for Viacom have not been made available to the public (nor apparently has any final decisions been made about what either company is planning on doing with those works). Presumably Team Cosby is going to politely bring up a rather obvious breach of contract. Netflix in particular is in trouble given that Cosby’s 2013 Comedy Central special was well received and (by all accounts) profitable- despite the presence of these allegations.
Essentially these entertainment companies are potentially in a bit of a bind because of their own greed in approving these projects (or continuing to re-broadcast old ones) regardless of the very google-able nature of Cosby’s supposed repugnant behavior. Any “changed circumstances” justifying a breach in contract could be potentially described by Cosby’s teams as merely corporate cold feet that was induced by a viral social media outrage- rather than Cosby’s own actions. That said the entertainment companies perhaps could be justifying this breach via the steady appearance of new alleged Cosby victims, or (if they were smart enough to include one) a post-Fatty Arbuckle “morals clause” in their contract.
Despite the relatively minor setbacks to Cosby caused by the sudden change of hearts within Viacom, Netflix, and NBC, the comedian remains fabulously wealthy and (by all appearances) without a solitary ounce of awareness for how the public is finally coming to view him. Additionally and depressingly, the all-wise marketplace will probably NOT cause a delayed reduction to Cosby’s considerable financial resources. However if any sort of justice can be perceived from these (claimed) offenses, perhaps it is that Cosby is finally facing the awful sort of public scrutiny he so gleefully inflicted on others.