Speaking out for the first time since a jury convicted Bill Cosby, the entertainer's publicists compared him Friday to Emmett Till, the black teen whose 1955 lynching in Mississippi — and the acquittal of his killers — became a signature moment of the civil rights era.
"This became a public lynching," Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt said of the entertainer's prosecution, during an interview on ABC's Good Morning America.
Wyatt maintained that Cosby had committed no crime, noting that despite the conviction, the defendant would "walk around as an innocent man" while the appeal process played out.
Within hours, that changed: Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O'Neill issued an order placing Cosby under house arrest until his sentencing.
"The defendant shall not leave his home" in Cheltenham, O'Neill wrote, will be fitted with an electronic monitor, and can travel within the Philadelphia area only if he first submits a written request to the county's probation office.
Wyatt's television appearance and the judge's tightening of bail conditions were just two of many responses the day after a jury in Norristown found the one-time TV star guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and molesting Andrea Constand.
Constand and other women who testified at the trial spoke out, and Temple University rescinded an honorary degree it gave Cosby, its most famous alumnus. One group that remained silent, however, was the jury that delivered the first celebrity conviction of the #MeToo era by declaring Cosby guilty; O'Neill did not release the names of the 12 jurors and six alternates from Montgomery County.
"You're saying all these women, all 60 women, are lying?" Stephanopoulos asked.
"Since when are all women honest?" Benson replied. "We can take a look at Emmett Till, for example. Not all people are honest."
Till was 14 and visiting relatives in Mississippi when he was lynched in August 1955, after a white woman claimed that he had grabbed her waist and made crude comments in an encounter at a grocery store. His killers were arrested and charged with murder, but acquitted by a jury of 12 white men. The following year, the defendants admitted the killing in a magazine interview. Decades later, the woman spoke out and said her claims against Till were false.
In her closing argument, one of Cosby's lawyers, Kathleen Bliss, also had compared the accusations to a lynching — as well as a witch hunt and McCarthyism.
Wyatt suggested that Gloria Allred, who represents more than 30 Cosby accusers, worked to help women fabricate allegations.
"What Gloria Allred was able to do, what she did, was take a salt and pepper shaker — she shaked out a lot of salt and sprinkled in a little black pepper," Wyatt said. "And the south came east. And that's what we saw."
The interview immediately stirred reactions on social media.
Moments before Wyatt and Benson spoke, Stephanopoulos interviewed Janice Baker-Kinney and Lise-Lotte Lublin, two of Allred's clients who testified against Cosby at trial.
"I just began to shake," Lublin, a teacher from Las Vegas, said of learning about the verdict.
Asked about the tough cross-examination she endured from Cosby's lawyer Tom Mesereau on the witness stand, Baker-Kinney said Mesereau was "kind of a bully … and I wasn't about to put up with it."
Constand tweeted her thanks Friday morning to Montgomery County prosecutors — her first public statement since Thursday's verdict. "Truth prevails," she wrote.
Her lawyer Dolores M. Troiani said Constand feels relieved by the verdict, but she was not sure whether she or Constand would say anything more about the trial.
"This has been a 14-year struggle," Troiani said. "I think we're entitled to take some time and think about things."
Meanwhile, O'Neill did not indicate Friday whether he intended to release the names of the jurors who delivered the guilty verdict or hold a hearing in response to a motion from media organizations requesting that he make their identities public.
In addition to the Inquirer, the Daily News, and Philly.com, the media organizations that petitioned the judge for access to the names Friday included the New York Times; the Washington Post; the New York Post; the Associated Press; CNN; ABC News; NBC News; Buzzfeed; WHYY; and the LNP Media Group, publisher of both LancasterOnline.com and the Caucus.
"The case for releasing the jurors' names is even stronger now" than after Cosby's first trial, which ended in a mistrial in June, attorneys Michael Berry and Paul Safier wrote in a motion on behalf of the news organizations. Back then, O'Neill was concerned that releasing jurors' names could fill the news with opinions that could taint the jury pool in advance of Cosby's retrial. He ultimately relented, acting on a similar request from many of the same media organizations.