NOTE: Bill Cosby shook his head “no” and was silent when asked about sex assault accusations in an NPR interview that aired Saturday. On Sunday, his attorney issued a statement dismissing “decade-old, discredited allegations.”
In 2008, he did comment — briefly — to the Chicago Sun-Times about allegations he drugged and molested a woman.
Here’s the story about his speech at a Chicago MLK Day event, in which he lectured 1,800 African-Americans on parenting and responsibility. Afterward, the Sun-Times buttonholed Cosby, who was surrounded by five or six men who appeared to be acting as bodyguards, to ask about a 2004 lawsuit.
BY MAUREEN O’DONNELL
He left the Cosby sweater behind and aired dirty laundry instead.
Bill Cosby used an appearance at a Rainbow/PUSH Martin Luther King Day breakfast to joke, chide, cajole and lecture a roomful of 1,800 African Americans on parenting and responsibility.
It’s a message he has been repeating for several years, drawing kudos and criticism. Some say he’s lost touch with the grinding hardships of the black underclass. Others say he tells it like it is.
Though best known for his role as TV dad Cliff Huxtable, he’s been a top comic and actor since the ’60s. So even as he railed on negative topics Monday, he kept the crowd at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers laughing.
Cosby didn’t mince words. He talked about babies having babies and dropping out of school. Giving up. Getting government checks. His successful-looking listeners paid $100 a plate, but that didn’t let them off the hook, he said.
“You’ve got to talk to these 20-year-old women with children who are teenagers,” he urged, to some uncomfortable laughter. When youngsters have babies, “People don’t know how to parent,” Cosby said. “They didn’t have the child with the intent of sending somebody higher.”
Cosby recalled lecturing at-risk youths to help them get back on track and in school. One fell asleep and confessed he’d been up until 4 a.m. with his girlfriend. “He’s screwing some 13-year-old girl without a rubber . . . so she can have something . . . that loves her.”
Back in his day, Cosby said, “you had to have a resume” to take a girl to the movies.
“You can’t just dismiss dogs and water hoses” used on activists in the civil rights era, he said. But how, he asked, do those injustices square with some youths — “all they can do is curse . . . and bragging because they got two, three babies somewhere that the government is sending checks twice a month.”
Education is the answer, he said. “You need parents to say. . . .’You don’t have to be at Northwestern, but what you have to be is in those books.’ ”
He also targeted profanity and negativity in hip-hop. For some radio stations, “You’ve got to treat them just like they’re the Ku Klux Klan if they’re not doing right. If they’re playing that stuff, and it’s leading children to not know how to behave, then don’t advertise.”
The breakfast was one of many tributes to the slain civil rights leader at area schools and places of worship, including a “Martinmas” celebration at DuSable Museum and concerts at the Chicago History Museum and Orchestra Hall.
As he left the Sheraton, Cosby was asked whether his message is diluted by a 2004 lawsuit alleging he drugged and molested a woman. He settled with her out of court in 2006. A federal judge in the case had denied the woman’s request to shield names of a dozen other women who accused Cosby.
“Oh, please, if I’m telling you where the bridge is out, you going to bother about what my character is?” Cosby replied.