Camille Cosby on her husband’s appeal and the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements

The 76-year-old gives her first major media interview in six years.

June 23, 2020, 10:52 PM

In her first major media interview in six years, Bill Cosby's wife Camille Cosby told ABC News that she is "very, very pleased" that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear part of her husband's appeal -- but insisted that the #MeToo movement needs to "clean up their act" and that she doesn't "care" about the feelings of scores of women who have accused her husband of drugging and sexually abusing them.

Cosby also addressed a spectrum of contemporary issues, from the protests against George Floyd's death in police custody and the fluid nature of race relations in America to why she doesn't visit her husband in prison.

The state Supreme Court's decision came down hours before a previously scheduled interview with Cosby about her reemergence from the shadows of two high-profile criminal trials. Tens of millions of dollars in donations the couple made over decades to colleges and universities have been returned since the once-beloved entertainer's 2018 conviction.

Cosby's friends insist that she has the wisdom and life experience to speak to a new generation of Black youth using civil disobedience to demand systemic changes to the American justice system and throughout American culture.

In a telephone interview with ABC News Prime anchor Linsey Davis from the Massachusetts home where she raised her five Cosby children and became the inspiration for Phylicia Rashad's unforgettable sitcom mom Clair Huxtable, the 76-year-old seemed optimistic.

"My first reaction is hopefulness, possibilities," Cosby told Davis. "The state's highest court … has said, 'Wait a minute. There are some problems here. They can be considered for an appeal.'"

"I'm very, very pleased."

In this Sept. 12, 1965 file photo, Bill Cosby, right, and his wife Camille arrive at the TV Academy awards in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles.
AP Photo

Cosby said that, to date, her husband "is [virus] free …. if he was even outside of prison, I would have the same concerns, but of course the risks are greater in a prison like that. But now? He's doing fine."

In April 2018, Bill Cosby was convicted of three counts of indecent assault and battery for drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004, and he was sentenced in the fall of 2018.

'Quid pro quo'

In an 11th hour victory for Cosby, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear parts of the imprisoned comedian's voluminous appeal -- following refusals by two lower courts to overturn his conviction, which included withering critiques of the Cosby camp's case during oral arguments before a three judge Superior Court panel.

The state Supreme Court announced that it will consider two of the four key arguments in Cosby's appeal. One involves the admission into trial of "prior bad acts" witnesses and Cosby's 2005-2006 Quaalude deposition. The appeal argues that the trial judge erred in allowing Cosby's prior deposition about using Quaaludes during consensual sexual encounters with women in the 1970s at trial. A date has not been set for a hearing.

The second point involves a written agreement from previous Montgomery County prosecutor Bruce Castor not to criminally prosecute Cosby in the Constand case. Castor had testified that while he was district attorney, he promised Cosby he would not file criminal charges if the entertainer would testify in a civil lawsuit Constand filed against Cosby in 2005. Cosby testified during four days of depositions by Constand's attorneys, and the civil lawsuit was settled for more than $3 million in 2006. Prosecutor Kevin R. Steele later brought criminal charges against Cosby in 2015 after succeeding Castor as the county's district attorney.

Castor was unaware of the court's decision when reached by ABC News on Tuesday, but said he was gratified by the decision after reading a copy.

"I've always thought it was strange that the trial court didn't apply more weight to my statement that this was a quid pro quo in order to obtain justice for the victim in a case that I did not think could be won based on available evidence," said Castor, who went on to serve as Pennsylvania state attorney general before retiring.

"And as it turns out, it could not be won," Castor said, referring to a 2017 mistrial that preceded convictions in the second trial in 2018.

Steele's office issued a brief statement on Tuesday, saying, "The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has narrowed the issues on appeal, limiting them to prior bad acts and the sovereign edict. We look forward to briefing and arguing these issues and remain confident in the Trial Court and Superior Court's previous decisions."

Comedian Bill Cosby and wife Camille Cosby walk backstage during the 38th annual NAACP Image Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on March 2, 2007 in Los Angeles, California.
Michael Buckner/Getty Images

'I don't care what they feel'

Cosby told ABC News that she is unconcerned about the #MeToo cancel culture, much of which believes that Cosby is on the wrong side of history when it comes to sexual assault victims' rights.

"First of all, I don't care what they feel," she said.

As to her second point, Cosby cited the final line of a famous quote from the 1972 nonfiction tome "No Name in the Street" by her friend, the late novelist and civil rights activist James Baldwin, that "ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have."

"The #MeToo movement and movements like them have intentional ignorance pertaining to the history of particular white women -- not all white women -- but particular white women, who have from the very beginning, pertaining to the enslavement of African people, accused black males of sexual assault without any proof whatsoever, no proof, anywhere on the face of the earth."

"And by ignoring that history, they have put out a lie in itself and that is, 'Because I'm female, I'm telling the truth.' Well history disproves that, as well, and gender has never, ever equated with truth. So, they need to clean up their acts. And it's all of us as women who have not participated anything nefarious -- we know how women can lie. We know how they can do the same things that men do -- that some men do -- because there are good men and bad men. There are good women and bad women."

Cosby also defended previous comparisons she has made between accusations against her husband and the lynching of Emmett Till, the 14-year old Mississippi child brutalized and murdered in 1955 for whistling at a white woman -- a false claim debunked years after the murder by the woman who made the claim in the first place.

She also drew comparisons of her husband's treatment to the massacre of hundreds of African Americans in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921 -- widely considered by scholars to be one of the lowest points of in the nation's history of racial violence.

Cosby contended that the comparison is apt.

"The parallel is that the same age-old thing about particular white women making accusations against black men that are unproven -- Emmett Till's outcome, to mutilate his body in the way that it was, was just really so deeply horrendous," she told Davis.

"I mean -- there's a lack of words for that kind of hatefulness. But see, years ago, I interviewed the survivors from the Tulsa Oklahoma riots in 1921. And that was another case of a wife female making a claim of sexual assault claim against a black male, which we all know if we know about the Tulsa, Oklahoma riots. It gave license to mobs of white people converging on a very independent economically independent educationally independent black community, named Greenwood and Topher, and hundreds of people were killed."

"So you boil this all down to racism?" Davis asked Cosby. "You feel that if your husband were not a black man that these accusations would not have been made and he would not be in prison?"

"I don't know that," Cosby responded, "because some white men have … there are some who have been sent to prison. But … it's not the same situation as the history [of] a particular white women with black men.

"We've seen them hanging from trees," she said of the men, "once they make those accusations. We've seen them being incarcerated … those accusations are made and -- once again – unproven. Unproven."

Cosby said she speaks to her husband daily, but does not visit him in prison. "In terms of visiting him, no, I do not want to see my husband in that kind of an environment -- and he doesn't want me to see him in that kind of environment," she said. "So we are in sync with that but I speak to him every single day.

Groundbreaking television

A close look at Camille Cosby's life and interviews with her friends and Cosby scholars suggest the key role she played in her husband's groundbreaking career. After receiving her Ph.D., she combined her scholarly work and her passion for African American issues to produce a Broadway play and an extensive African American oral history project. She has spoken out consistently over decades about the need for better educational opportunities and empowerment through voting for minority communities.

The groundbreaking "Cosby Show" debuted on NBC in 1984 and at its height in the late 1980s, it was the most popular show on U.S. television for five years running. Beyond reimagining the flagging sitcom format, it was the first national TV show to feature a stable, well-educated, two-parent African American family, according to biographer Ronald L. Smith, author of "Cosby, The Life of a Comedy Legend."

"'Sanford & Son,' 'The Jeffersons,' 'Good Times' -- there wasn't a real [African American] family unit that wasn't some sort of caricature," Smith said.

Cosby has also said she wants to relaunch the animated cartoon “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,” which debuted in 1972, breaking new ground in children’s television programming by featuring positive images of both an overweight teenager – Albert – and, Mushmouth, a boy with a speech impediment.

Cosby initially declined an interview request with ABC News last week before ultimately agreeing. Her friends said that given the turbulent civil rights demonstrations unfolding from coast to coast in the wake of Floyd's death, the time is right for her voice to be heard.

"It's like a moment I've been waiting for -- to hear from her!" said Jacqueline Jackson, wife of Rev. Jesse Jackson. "I feel this is her moment."

Cosby has said her daughters are urging her to write a book, but she told ABC News that she's also deeply concerned about the direction of contemporary civil rights protests.

"I do believe that these young people are very energetic," Cosby said. "We need their energy. We need their intelligence within the movements that are comprised of people of different generations."

Still, she expressed the concern of a veteran educator -- and a mother.

"But they have to be focused," she insisted. "And I'm very concerned about so many young people with nanosecond attention spans. They cannot be just jumping around from the movement to another."

Bill Cosby and wife Camille Cosby arrive at Bill Cosby Trial at Montgomery County Courthouse on June 12, 2017 in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
Gilbert Carrasquillo/WireImage/Getty Images

"You have to stick with a movement, and with a goal of the movement," she said, "and the others with their agendas have their own movements to move forward, but not to weaken a strong movement like this."

ABC News' Natalie Savits contributed to this report.

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