Over the last year, the scandal surrounding Bill Cosby has been the subject of countless hours of TV news as broadcast and cable news networks spoke to dozens of women accusing the comedy icon of drugging and raping them.
CNN “New Day” anchor Alisyn Camerota was one the journalists leading the charge, and used her background as a former crime reporter for “America’s Most Wanted” to sort through fact or fiction. Since joining the cable news network last summer, she has interviewed a dozen of Cosby’s alleged victims — each one more than once — and maintains “very, very, very rarely does someone make a false claim.”
“I have not really been surprised that things seem to be reaching a crescendo because I think when there’s a groundswell of this many victims it does keep building on itself,” she told TheWrap in a wide-ranging interview. “Barbara Bowman really opened the floodgates and then a tidal wave happened where there’s a phenomenon in strength in numbers.”
Since the 1,000-page deposition was released last week, Camerota spoke with several of the accusers. “They feel truly vindicated,” she said.
As a TV news pro, the morning anchor knows the most important thing is finding the fresh angle on the big story, but with the Cosby saga, ripe with a gauntlet of storylines — sexual assault, race, celebrity — it’s wasn’t automatically clear where to begin.
“It does have all those different angles,” she said, explaining that she started with a focus on the accusers’ stories, which were so “strikingly similar.”
After it became clear there had to be a call to action, Camerota, like the accusers, asked, “Now what?”
“How do you make someone who you said did this pay?” the anchor asked. And through conversations with accusers, Camerota explained many hope there’s a flicker of hope that through a defamation lawsuit and the 2008 case, Cosby will have his day in court.
But even with the court of public opinion reaching a guilty verdict on Cosby long ago, Camerota still had to put on her detective hat as an anchor, reading the accusers she interviewed to evaluate if any were lying or showing an agenda.
Luckily, her experience interviewing victims and fugitives gave her plenty of expertise.
“In my experience, very, very, very rarely does someone make a false claim, and the reason is it’s embarrassing; it’s humiliating,” Camerota said. “Nobody wants to talk about something so personal, and so ugly that they say happened to them, and say it on national television.”
This insight made Camerota inclined to believe Cosby had done wrong: “These were women that weren’t looking for fame, or money from him, so what would be their motivation to come forward? They have families, they have jobs, why would they risk their reputation and their privacy to come forward if not just for the sake of telling the truth.”
Vice versa, Camerota made up her mind quickly after watching Cosby’s bizarre silent interview with the Associated Press, reading the 2005 deposition, and hearing suggestions he didn’t think his actions were rape.
“The thing that blows that whole excuse out of the water is the Quaaludes — you can’t say you’re having nonsexual sex when you’re feeding them Quaaludes,” Camerota continued, noting the powerful drug incapacitates people, pouring cold water on Cosby likening it to giving a woman a glass of wine. “His argument that this was consensual is absurd on its face because you don’t have to drug women if you’re having consensual sex.”
Another argument people found absurd was made by “The View” co-host Whoopi Goldberg, who initially defended Cosby, citing America’s standard of being innocent until proven guilty.
“I take Whoopi at her word that it was hard to speak out against a fellow comedian, particularly a black comedian, but at the end of the day, when the evidence suggests he was at least doing something untoward and against women’s wishes, even for Whoopi, she had to admit the preponderance of evidence now seemed to not support what she said all along.”
“Not only celebrities, but we had some of the victims come on who were black, and they said it was hard for them to come forward because he was such a pillar, he was a pillar of the entertainment community,” Camerota continued. “He had this outward appearance of being such a role model and such a stand-up guy.”
Like the rest of the media, Camerota doesn’t have a crystal ball to take a peek at Cosby’s future, but she does have the first sentence of his obituary written.
“The legendary comedian, once America’s favorite television dad, became embattled and disgraced under the cloud of sexual assault allegations from dozens of women.”