Bill Cosby said Tuesday that he will not testify in his own defense at his sex-assault trial next month in Norristown, and suggested that racism may have played some role in the scandal that has left his reputation in tatters.
“There are so many tentacles, so many different — nefarious is a great word — and I just truly believe that some of it may very well be that,” the 79-year-old entertainer said in an interview with SiriusXM radio host Michael Smerconish.
Cosby sat for the nearly 30-minute conversation — his first broadcast interview since he was charged with indecent aggravated assault in late 2015 — just a week before jury selection for his trial is set to begin in Pittsburgh.
He declined to discuss in detail the allegations that he drugged and assaulted the case’s central accuser, Andrea Constand, in his Cheltenham home in 2004.
But in often long and rambling responses to Smerconish’s questions, Cosby described the more than 60 women who have come forward accusing him of sexual misconduct as a “piling on” intended to sway public opinion against him. He said he hopes to be acquitted and return to performing.
“I know the side that I’m on and the side that I’m hoping for,” he told Smerconish, who also writes a weekly column for the Inquirer. “And after that, there’s work to be done.”
Cosby remained upbeat throughout the interview, often joking and chuckling. His responses grew heated only when he was asked whether he believed all his accusers were lying.
“You know better than that,” he admonished Smerconish. “I won’t and I cannot answer that. It’s really not fair and you know that, because all I have to do is say something similar to that and the next thing I know the postman is carrying a big bag [and] they’re saying, ‘Defamation, defamation, defamation.’ ”
He spoke of the hits his career has taken in the wake of the scandal, including the withdrawal of network deals and decisions by several colleges and universities to rescind his honorary degrees.
“I’d like to be remembered for being the guy that they made give back all the things they rescinded," he said. “I’d like to get those things back because the people who decided to make that decision then saw they’d made a mistake.”
As for his decision not to take the witness stand, Cosby told the radio host that he was concerned about giving truthful answers from the witness stand without “opening a can of something” that could send his lawyers “scrambling.”
If he doesn’t change his mind, that means the only words jurors will hear directly from Cosby will be ones he uttered the last time he walked that precarious legal line more than a decade ago — his 2005 deposition testimony for a civil suit filed by Constand.
Cosby spoke openly then about buying Quaaludes to use in consensual sexual encounters with women. Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill has said he will allow prosecutors to use those statements as part of their case.
Asked why he was speaking out now, Cosby insisted that he was not aiming his interview — and recent statements by his daughters, Ensa and Erinn — to sway potential jurors.
“I decided I think it’s time for me to do something,” he said.
His daughters’ remarks aired Monday on The Breakfast Club, a morning show on a New York radio station that is syndicated across the country.
“I believe that racism has played a big role in all aspects of this scandal. … My father has been publicly lynched by the media,” Ensa Cosby said.
The segment also featured clips from an interview Erinn Cosby conducted with her father.
In them, Cosby reminisced in measured tones about his upbringing in Philadelphia and time playing sports in Fairmount Park as a youth with a makeshift football made up of crumpled newspapers and rubber bands.
“I always talk about Philadelphia,” he told Smerconish. “It is in my records, it was in my monologues. It’s important to me because that’s the connection, Philadelphia, growing up in Philadelphia, being with people that are now named Fat Albert.”