Michael Smerconish: Cosby sealed his fate by becoming a public moralist

That Bill Cosby will be forever known as a serial abuser of women wasn't determined by the findings of a jury. It didn't come down to evidence such as forensics, DNA or even a blue dress. Instead his fate was sealed in the court of public opinion by an adjudication of his hypocrisy. Beyond the legalese, that was the true predicate on which Judge Eduardo C. Robreno based his decision to unseal documents related to a civil suit filed against Cosby 10 years ago.

"This case, however, is not about defendant's status as a public person by virtue of the exercise of his trade as a televised or comedic personality," wrote the judge in his 25-page opinion. "Rather, defendant has donned the mantle of public moralist and mounted the proverbial electronic or print soap box to volunteer his views on, among other things, childrearing, family life, education and crime."

Citing precedent, Robreno concluded Cosby had "thrust himself into the vortex of these public issues" and had "voluntarily narrowed the zone of privacy that he is entitled to claim." As a result, the judge, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush, lifted a temporary seal he had entered 10 years ago that had kept discovery motions and their supporting documents from public view. (The court had never ruled on a permanent motion to seal because the case was settled.)

Certain of those documents quoted from Cosby's deposition, including an exchange in which he was asked by the attorney for accuser Andrea Constad whether he had obtained Quaaludes to use for young women with whom he wanted to have sex. "Yes," Cosby replied.

Listed in a footnote of Robreno's opinion were examples of Cosby's duality: the so-called pound-cake speech he delivered in 2004 at the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education; a 2013 interview he did with CNN's Don Lemon; and impromptu remarks he made to Temple grads during their 2014 commencement.


In the first example, Cosby criticized African-American parents who enable dangerous, promiscuous and frivolous behavior in their children by not demanding their unwavering loyalty and respect.

"People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake," Cosby said. "Then we all run out and are outraged; 'The cops shouldn't have shot him.' What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand? I wanted a piece of pound cake just as bad as anybody else, and I looked at it and I had no money. And something called parenting said, 'If I get caught with it, you're going to embarrass your mother. … You're going to embarrass your family.'"

Two years ago, in an interview with CNN's Lemon, Cosby discussed the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and today's leadership needs. He also shared his views on rehabilitating juvenile delinquents, saying:

"I told these young fellows who were incarcerated, 'If you don't feel right, if you want to talk to somebody, go see the psychologist.' Afterwards this woman came to me and said, 'Thanks a lot. There'll be a line all the way around for people to see me.' But my point is: If you drug these people, and then you release them, and there's no prescription for them to get to take to do the same thing, and they go back to the same place.

"Now, about this time, this is when you hear the 'no-groes' jump up and say, 'Why don't you talk about the good things?' … Because the good things happen to be taking care of themselves pretty well.

"We are trying to help those genius,' those not genius', people who deserve, because they are human beings on this Earth, in the United States of America, we are trying to get them in a position so they will understand and want to."

Finally, at Temple University's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2014, he accepted a spontaneous invitation to speak to grads and said:

"Look up Phillis Wheatley. Look up Frederick Douglass. No degrees, no papers. Just self-educated and seekers. Seekers. … As I have said over and over, those black people in the South picking cotton, 107 degrees Fahrenheit, 90 degrees humidity, who while picking cotton said to themselves, 'Algebra is much easier than this.'"


That Robreno didn't take kindly to Cosby telling others how to lead their lives while his own was so predatory is clear from his order. The ruling unsealed documents that included deposition excerpts that the judge noted were from the traditionally private discovery process. That the case was settled under a confidentiality agreement wherein the deposition was to be included as part of that privacy bargain didn't stop the judge from pretty much calling out Cosby as a fraud:

"The stark contrast between Bill Cosby, the public moralist, and Bill Cosby, the subject of serious allegations concerning improper (and perhaps criminal) conduct is a matter as to which the AP — and by extension the public — has a significant interest."

Arguably, had Cosby stuck to comedy, his secret admission from a decade-old deposition would have remained hidden in the federal courthouse in Philadelphia.

Michael Smerconish writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer and is host of "Smerconish" on CNN.

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