Bill Cosby Breaks Silence on Trayvon Martin

Comedian has stirred controversy in the past with comments about race.

ByABC News
April 9, 2012, 12:54 PM

April 9, 2012— -- Bill Cosby has weighed in on the Trayvon Martin case.

The famed comedian told the Washington Times that neighborhood watch volunteers like George Zimmerman, who shot and killed the unarmed black teenager, should not be allowed to carry guns.

"We've got to get the gun out of the hands of people who are supposed to be on neighborhood watch," Cosby said in his first public remarks about the case, published today.

"Without a gun, I don't see Mr. Zimmerman approaching Trayvon by himself," Cosby added. "The power-of-the-gun mentality had him unafraid to confront someone. Even police call for backup in similar situations.

"When you carry a gun, you mean to harm somebody, kill somebody."

"The Cosby Show" star's remarks were immediately circulated on the Web, including conservative sites that took issue with Cosby's pinpointing "the gun" as the problem.

Cosby, 74, steered clear of mentioning race in a case that has sparked allegations of racism and a nationwide outcry for justice. In the past, however, he has been unafraid to jump into the fray and has even caused controversy of his own.

In the late 1980s, Cosby inserted himself into the case of Tawana Brawley, a black teenage girl who said she was sexually assaulted by six white men, including a police officer and an assistant district attorney. Cosby pledged his public support to her and contributed to a $25,000 reward for information in the case.

"Bill and I don't care who the perpetrators are, whether they're black, white, pink, yellow or family. They should be caught," Essence magazine publisher Edward Lewis, who also contributed to the reward, told People at the time.

A grand jury later found insufficient evidence of a rape, and Brawley and her advisers -- including Rev. Al Sharpton, who was thrust into the spotlight -- were successfully sued for defamation. The incident inflamed racial tension nationwide.

Nearly two decades later, Cosby stirred racial tension, this time within the black community. During a 2004 NAACP celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education school-desegregation decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Cosby upbraided poor black parents for buying their children expensive sneakers but not teaching them proper English.

"These people marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around," Cosby said at the event.

"I can't even talk the way these people talk: 'Why you ain't,' 'Where you is' ... and I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk," Cosby continued. "And then I heard the father talk. ... Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth."

After his comments sparked a nationwide debate, Cosby said in a statement that he meant for his remarks to be a call to action.

"I feel that I can no longer remain silent," he said. "If I have to make a choice between keeping quiet so that conservative media does not speak negatively or ringing the bell to galvanize those who want change in the lower economic community, then I choose to be a bell ringer."

Since then, Cosby, who has a doctorate degree in education, has continued to espouse responsible parenting, the importance of good education and personal accountability.

"Stand up and stop looking for somebody to blame," he told an audience of community association leaders in 2008.