A colorful dissent against the #MeToo movement was mounted Tuesday outside the courtroom in Norristown, Pennsylvania, where Bill Cosby, a once cherished American father figure, was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison for drugging and sexual assaulting a woman in his home in 2004.
A conclusion that some celebrated as justice for a man who had long eluded accusations of misconduct was described by Cosby’s publicist, Andrew Wyatt, as the latest offensive in a “sex war” gripping the country. He likened the proceedings against Cosby, 81, to the persecution of Jesus.
“They persecuted Jesus, and looked what happened,” Wyatt said. “Not saying Mr. Cosby is Jesus, but we know what the country has done to black men for centuries.”
The spokesman delivered a broadside against Judge Steven O’Neill that seemed designed for maximum shock value, pitting white women against black men amid a vexed national reckoning with issues of race and gender. As if that weren’t enough, Wyatt invoked the only controversy that eclipsed Cosby’s on Tuesday — the battle over Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, unfolding 150 miles away in Washington.
“What is going on in Washington today with Judge Kavanaugh is part of that sex war that Judge O’Neill, along with his wife, are part of,” said Wyatt, the founder of Purpose PR, based in Birmingham, Alabama. Lawyers for Cosby had asked the judge to recuse himself because his wife, Deborah O’Neill, is a therapist who works with victims of sexual assault.
The loose comparison to a man led from a courtroom in handcuffs could not have been a welcome development for Kavanaugh, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The nominee does not face a criminal trial, but is nonetheless battling allegations of sexual misconduct leveled by two women, one from high school and one from college. In denying their claims, Kavanaugh has painted himself as a champion of women with a sterling professional record.
“I am the leading federal judge in the country — the leader in the entire country of promoting women law clerks to get Supreme Court clerkships,” he said Monday in an extraordinary Fox News interview. “For the last seven years, I’ve been coaching girls basketball. Ask the moms.”
Wyatt’s rebuttal to the judge’s decision hit similar notes. The spokesman observed that generations of African Americans have looked up to the comedian, who once enjoyed a net worth of $400 million. His on-screen portrayal of a successful doctor was a symbol of what minorities in America could achieve, and his off-screen philanthropy provided them with the educational tools to do so.
“Dr. Cosby has been one of the greatest civil rights leaders in the United States for over the last 50 years,” Wyatt said. “He also has been one of the greatest educators of men and boys over the last 50 years.”
During that same period, according to the accounts of 60 women, Cosby was repeatedly acting out as a sexual predator. The only case that produced criminal charges was that of Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee whom Cosby had mentored in the early 2000s. He was convicted in April of aggravated indecent assault.
Wyatt described the proceedings as “the most racist and sexist trial in the history of the United States.” He may have overlooked, to name just two examples, the 1955 acquittal of two white men in the beating, torture and murder of Emmett Till and, further back, the 19th-century trial that led to the Dred Scott case, in which the Supreme Court concluded that black people could never be American citizens.
After her husband’s conviction in the spring, Camille O. Cosby compared him to Till, the 14-year-old lynched for allegedly flirting with a white woman.
The charged gender dynamics of anti-black prejudice were leveraged Tuesday by Wyatt, who argued that white women had sealed Cosby’s fate.
“All three of the psychologists who testified against Dr. Cosby were white women who make money off accusing black men of being sexual predators,” Wyatt told reporters outside the courtroom, reading from a phone under an umbrella in the pouring rain.
The question of the comedian’s mental state proved critical in the sentencing hearings. His defense team asked for house arrest, saying Cosby was not dangerous because of his advanced age and legal blindness. But a state psychologist suggested that he had a “personality disorder” that would make more crimes likely.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Without evidence, Wyatt said the judge had “conspired with bad psychologists.” Part of his criticism of Kristen F. Dudley, a psychologist and member of the Pennsylvania Sex Offenders Assessment Board, was that, “she is a practitioner of mindfulness,” which he called “an eastern-inspired practice that is controversial in the field of psychology.”
Wyatt and another publicist, Ebonee Benson, also accused prosecutors of relying on falsified evidence, including an audio recording of a 2005 conversation between the defendant and the victim’s mother that they argue was edited to remove exonerating information. Cosby’s lawyers have said they will appeal.