Letter From the Editor: About That Bill Cosby Post….

TheWrap’s CEO and editor-in-chief addresses reader outrage over Hollyblogger Richard Stellar’s op-ed

Bill Cosby
Getty Images

We published a guest blog post on Saturday that upset many readers, so I want to address it.

Richard Stellar, a regular Hollyblogger, wrote a post that many interpreted as an attack on the women who are accusing Bill Cosby of rape. And they found it offensive.

Along with the headline, “The Rape of Bill Cosby,” this paragraph particularly struck a nerve:

“The concept of justice is disregarded. The statute of limitations is ignored. The recollections of events that happened as long as fifty years ago are dredged up by aging actresses who have one eye on the CNN camera, and the other on a book or reality show deal. If the statute of limitations was as long as the 15 minutes of fame that these lost souls are trying to recapture, then our prisons would be as vacant as the Holiday Inn in Acapulco (you probably have no idea what that means because you’re not used to real news). Thankfully, the statute of limitations was written to avoid exactly what this blog is about. There is no legitimacy to justice if there is no real evidence, and evidence has a way of vanishing as memories dim with the marching of time. A DNA swab on most of Cosby’s detractors if done today would most likely come up exceedingly dry.”

In the face of all kinds of clamoring accusations let me start by clarifying:

Our Hollyblogs are written by independent bloggers and represent their own views. Their blogs are edited, but not with the same scrutiny as staff writers who do represent TheWrap.

Richard Stellar has been blogging for TheWrap almost since the site has existed. His views are often contrarian, but that should never disqualify someone from a community forum.

On the other hand, an opinion piece with a contrarian view can provoke, but it should not offend. Clearly it has done so, and for that I apologize. That was not intentional.

I read the blog in advance of publication and felt – and still feel – that it represents a valid point of view. Stellar critiques the media – meaning, TheWrap, since we’ve covered this story extensively – for suddenly jumping all over this scandal, and he questions the motives of women coming forward now, since there is no real possibility of trying these cases in court.

Many readers clearly disagree, but that is the very point of a community forum. What would be the point of only publishing points of view with which we agree? Allowing for dissenting views is essential to the exercise of free speech. The Cosby case strikes a nerve, partly because it is so at odds with the comedian’s longtime public image, and because the alleged behavior so … well, sick.

The fierceness with which Stellar’s views are attacked truly gives me pause (i.e. any questioning of an accusation makes him pro-rape?), and makes me wonder what we are losing in our society as polarized opinions retreat to their own echo chambers.

Stellar makes clear: “I’m not saying that what these woman claim happened, didn’t happen.”

My own view on Bill Cosby is what I wrote under my own byline a few days ago: the media (with one or two notable exceptions) is late to this story.

“Trial by Twitter is becoming the rule, but the truth is, we should have paid attention long ago to what more than a dozen women were saying about Cosby: that he had drugged and raped them. We didn’t want to believe. ”

My strong belief is that the antidote to speech you do not agree with is more speech. And more speech. That’s the underpinning of our democracy.

In the age of social media, that belief is complicated by the fact that speech can quickly turn to bullying, a mob mentality that gets in the way of considering other views, or weighing nuanced argument. This case should be full of nuance, since it is so full of unknowns.

In taking responsibility for having offended readers, I am changing the headline to something more in line with the substance of the blog. If Stellar wants to soften some of his language, he can do so.

And I pledge to our readers to take more care in approving Hollyblogs so that they inspire debate, rather than insult.

Still, let us all take a breath and give one another the benefit of the doubt: we are aiming for vigorous, healthy exchange of views because we believe that doing so gets us closer to a common weal, and hopefully a common truth.