Cosby: African-Americans 'Not Holding Up Their End'

ByABC News
June 29, 2005, 8:13 AM

June 29, 2005 -- -- It came as a shock to many last year when Bill Cosby, one of America's top TV dads and comedians, strongly criticized low-income African-Americans, and then took that message on the road.

In a series of "Conversations with Cosby" held in cities with large urban and poor populations, Cosby has said African-Americans are not "holding up their end of the deal" and need to take more responsibility for their families and communities.

During these events, Cosby has been tight-lipped with the media, often talking only to columnists in order to promote his advocacy. But the entertainer invited "Nightline's" Michel Martin to sit down for an exclusive interview during his latest event in St. Louis. Martin shared a preview of the piece, which airs in its entirety tonight, with "Good Morning America."

Cosby calls his town meetings "call outs" and has traveled to 12 cities so far, spreading his message of personal responsibility.

He has lambasted "lower-economic people," parents who spend more on athletic shoes than education, and children who use poor English and curse constantly. He has said blacks need to stop blaming whites and take control of their children and their communities.

"Nine hundred kids enter many of these high schools, and 35 walk out with diplomas," Cosby told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "The rest are in prison, pregnant or wandering around doing nothing."

Critics have dubbed it the "Blame the Poor Tour," and blasted Cosby's remarks as hurtful and stereotypical.

Martin asked Cosby about those criticisms.

"I would say they are trying to move away from the problem," Cosby said. "They're trying to deal me some cards other than the hand that I'm talking about. I don't talk about the television set that works. I call the mechanic about that one that's broken."

However, his outspokenness has made him a target due to his own conduct, including current allegations of sexual misconduct. Prosecutors have declined to press charges, although a civil suit is pending. Cosby has publicly acknowledged that he had an inappropriate relationship outside of his marriage.