Alexa

Cosby's life of achievement stained by assault conviction

FILE - In this Nov. 18, 2013 file photo, actor-comedian Bill Cosby poses for a portrait in New York. On Thursday, April 26, 2018, Cosby was convicted ...
Bill Cosby, center, leaves the the Montgomery County Courthouse after being convicted of drugging and molesting a woman, Thursday, April 26, 2018, in ...
Bill Cosby accuser Andrea Constand, left, embraces prosecutor Kristen Feden during a news conference after Cosby was found guilty in his sexual assaul...
The Bill Cosby's star on the Hollywood Walk Fame is tagged with a "Guilty on All 3 Counts!" papers in Los Angeles Thursday, April 26, 2018. The comedi...
Bill Cosby accusers, from left, Caroline Heldman, Lili Bernard and Victoria Valentino, right, react outside the courtroom after Cosby was found guilty...
FILE - In this April 24, 2018 file photo, Bill Cosby departs after his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa. On ...
FILE - In this April 18, 2018 file photo, Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa. The p...
FILE - In this April 12, 2018 file photo, Bill Cosby's spokesman Andrew Wyatt, left, and attorney Gloria Allred argue as they talk with the media duri...
FILE - In this April 9, 2018 file photo, actress Nicolle Rochelle, who appeared on several episodes of "The Cosby Show," is detained as Bill Cosby arr...
FILE - In this April 12, 2018 file photo, Bill Cosby, center, leaves his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa. O...
FILE - In this Dec. 30, 2015 file photo, Bill Cosby arrives at court to face a felony charge of aggravated indecent assault in Elkins Park, Pa. On Thu...
FILE - In this April 25, 2014 file photo, entertainer Bill Cosby meets with young athletes during the Penn Relays athletics meet in Philadelphia. On T...
FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2015 file photo, comedian Bill Cosby salutes the crowd as he begins a performance in Denver. On Thursday, April 26, 2018, Cosb...
FILE – In this Nov. 6, 2014, file photo, Bill Cosby and his wife, Camille, laugh as they tell a story about collecting a piece in the exhibit "Convers...
FILE – In this Nov. 11, 2014, file photo, Bill Cosby speaks during a Veterans Day ceremony at the All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors in...
FILE – In this Nov. 11, 2014, file photo, Bill Cosby speaks during a Veterans Day ceremony at the All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors in...
FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2013 file photo, comedian Bill Cosby performs at the Stand Up for Heroes event in New York. On Thursday, April 26, 2018, Cosby ...
FILE - In this May 12, 2011 file photo, comedian Bill Cosby appears at Temple University's commencement in Philadelphia. On Thursday, April 26, 2018, ...
FILE - In this May 16, 2006 file photo, Bill Cosby speaks to an audience on the campus of University of the District of Columbia in Washington. On Thu...
FILE - In this April 24, 2008 file photo, Bill Cosby speaks at a forum for at-risk youths, in Atlanta. On Thursday, April 26, 2018, Cosby was convicte...
FILE - This Oct. 26, 2009 file photo, comedian Bill Cosby, left, and his wife Camille appear at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts before ...
FILE - In this Feb. 27, 2008 file photo, Bill Cosby, perennial host of the Playboy Jazz Festival, right, and Playboy founder Hugh Hefner appear at a p...

FILE - In this Nov. 18, 2013 file photo, actor-comedian Bill Cosby poses for a portrait in New York. On Thursday, April 26, 2018, Cosby was convicted ...

Bill Cosby, center, leaves the the Montgomery County Courthouse after being convicted of drugging and molesting a woman, Thursday, April 26, 2018, in ...

Bill Cosby accuser Andrea Constand, left, embraces prosecutor Kristen Feden during a news conference after Cosby was found guilty in his sexual assaul...

The Bill Cosby's star on the Hollywood Walk Fame is tagged with a "Guilty on All 3 Counts!" papers in Los Angeles Thursday, April 26, 2018. The comedi...

Bill Cosby accusers, from left, Caroline Heldman, Lili Bernard and Victoria Valentino, right, react outside the courtroom after Cosby was found guilty...

FILE - In this April 24, 2018 file photo, Bill Cosby departs after his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa. On ...

FILE - In this April 18, 2018 file photo, Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa. The p...

FILE - In this April 12, 2018 file photo, Bill Cosby's spokesman Andrew Wyatt, left, and attorney Gloria Allred argue as they talk with the media duri...

FILE - In this April 9, 2018 file photo, actress Nicolle Rochelle, who appeared on several episodes of "The Cosby Show," is detained as Bill Cosby arr...

FILE - In this April 12, 2018 file photo, Bill Cosby, center, leaves his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa. O...

FILE - In this Dec. 30, 2015 file photo, Bill Cosby arrives at court to face a felony charge of aggravated indecent assault in Elkins Park, Pa. On Thu...

FILE - In this April 25, 2014 file photo, entertainer Bill Cosby meets with young athletes during the Penn Relays athletics meet in Philadelphia. On T...

FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2015 file photo, comedian Bill Cosby salutes the crowd as he begins a performance in Denver. On Thursday, April 26, 2018, Cosb...

FILE – In this Nov. 6, 2014, file photo, Bill Cosby and his wife, Camille, laugh as they tell a story about collecting a piece in the exhibit "Convers...

FILE – In this Nov. 11, 2014, file photo, Bill Cosby speaks during a Veterans Day ceremony at the All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors in...

FILE – In this Nov. 11, 2014, file photo, Bill Cosby speaks during a Veterans Day ceremony at the All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors in...

FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2013 file photo, comedian Bill Cosby performs at the Stand Up for Heroes event in New York. On Thursday, April 26, 2018, Cosby ...

FILE - In this May 12, 2011 file photo, comedian Bill Cosby appears at Temple University's commencement in Philadelphia. On Thursday, April 26, 2018, ...

FILE - In this May 16, 2006 file photo, Bill Cosby speaks to an audience on the campus of University of the District of Columbia in Washington. On Thu...

FILE - In this April 24, 2008 file photo, Bill Cosby speaks at a forum for at-risk youths, in Atlanta. On Thursday, April 26, 2018, Cosby was convicte...

FILE - This Oct. 26, 2009 file photo, comedian Bill Cosby, left, and his wife Camille appear at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts before ...

FILE - In this Feb. 27, 2008 file photo, Bill Cosby, perennial host of the Playboy Jazz Festival, right, and Playboy founder Hugh Hefner appear at a p...

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Over and over again, Bill Cosby, the charmer, persuaded America to drop its guard.

Before Cosby and "I Spy," no African-American man had landed the lead in a television drama series. Before Cosby and "The Cosby Show," no affluent, educated black family existed on TV. Before Cosby, few black celebrities were hired to pitch something as mainstream as Jell-O.

It all made for an unmatched contribution to ethnic equality, a legacy seemingly invulnerable to claims spanning decades that "America's Dad" was sexually abusing women. He denied it all and, year after year, that proved good enough.

Until it wasn't. The collective willingness to trust in Cosby ended in a Pennsylvania courtroom Thursday. Jurors convicted the 80-year-old comedian of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, whose 2004 experience with Cosby echoed that of so many of his accusers who emerged before last year's #MeToo wave began.

His wildly successful stand-up concerts and albums, the smash hit TV shows, the immense comedic talent that gave him power to change pop culture — nothing is left unstained.

"It is just about impossible to see any of that except through the hindsight of his being a predator," said Martin Kaplan, Norman Lear Professor of Entertainment, Media and Society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Cosby parlayed his authority as a father figure into the right to counsel — or as critics saw it, lecture — young people, especially African-Americans, on how to live, Kaplan said.

"He was Dr. Cosby, and a great authority on issues where you need moral standing," the professor said.

"So now we all have to ask ourselves: What were we thinking? Why didn't we see it?" Kaplan said, comparing Cosby's fall from grace to the hit on poet T.S. Eliot's reputation when his anti-Semitism came to light.

Cosby first won attention in the early 1960s as a clean-working comic who mined the experiences of children and parents for his material. He turned to acting in 1965 with "I Spy," winning three straight Emmys and the title "the Jackie Robinson of television" for breaking one of TV's major ethnic barriers.

Then came "The Cosby Show," which aired on NBC from 1984 to 1992, in which he and Phylicia Rashad starred as firm but loving parents to an appealing brood of children. Mom and dad were high-achieving professionals, he in medicine, she in law.

"He was the biggest star in the U.S. in the '80s, which made him the biggest TV star in the world," longtime Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman said.

And as Cosby's fame and wealth grew, he became a generous benefactor to schools and other institutions, adding to his luster.

Now many of those institutions have cut ties with him, and much of what endeared Cosby to baby boomers and younger fans of classic TV has been wiped clean from the screen.

Syndication staple "Cosby Show" was dropped by TV Land as allegations against Cosby built, and Bounce TV reportedly was pulling the series after the verdict.

It's far from the final act that Cosby had been working on. Just a few years ago, he was developing a new sitcom with NBC in which he was to play a grandfather dispensing advice. He also was looking forward to Netflix's release of a new stand-up special and was preparing to launch an ambitious standup tour.

Although his appeal crossed generational and ethnic lines, his slams against the dress, behavior and language of black youngsters provoked dismay from some African-Americans. It was that divide, not yet another woman's accusation, that helped accelerate the unraveling.

Black comedian Hannibal Buress was onstage in 2014 when he criticized Cosby for his self-righteousness, declaring, "You rape women, Bill Cosby."

Though Buress later said he was simply making a joke that went further than he expected, an audience member posted a video of the remark, prompting allegations from dozens of women telling similar stories to news outlets: Cosby gave them a pill or drink, they became intoxicated or incoherent and they were powerless to stop him from having sex with them.

NBC dropped its plan for the new comedy series, the Netflix special was pulled and concert dates began to dissolve. A new biography by the respected journalist Mark Whitaker foundered for largely overlooking the allegations of Cosby's assaults.

Can any aspect of what Cosby created stand? Bragman, for one, said it's impossible right now to separate the man's work from his actions.

"This is his legacy in his lifetime," he said.

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Lynn Elber can be reached at lelber@ap.org and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.