Camille Cosby’s conspicuous silence about the multiple rape allegations leveled against Bill, her husband of 50 years, has finally come to an end.
She issued a statement through CBS News denying the claims that her husband had, in fact, raped anyone.
The media’s portrayal bears no resemblance to the man she loves, she said, and Bill really is the delightful family man you saw in his sitcom.
She even compared the allegations to the discredited account of a UVA gang rape in the much-scrutinized feature in Rolling Stone, and implied that Bill is the real victim in all of this.
NEW: Billy Cosby's wife Camille releases statement comparing coverage of her husband to Rolling Stone UVA rape story pic.twitter.com/lzWdytGC22 — CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) December 15, 2014
Of course, this statement is unconvincing -- the analogy between her husband and the UVA story is decidedly illogical.
But Camille’s reaction is also unsurprising -- the disbelief that someone we love is capable of heinous acts is part of what allows them to happen in the first place.
Camille is right that Rolling Stone’s botched UVA rape piece was a tremendous journalistic failure.
Reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely was dead wrong not to consult any calendars, witnesses or alleged perpetrators of her source Jackie’s story.
But accusations against Cosby are far from devoid of circumstantial evidence, and journalists have done their due diligence in reaching out for comment from Cosby’s team.
That’s the big problem with Camille’s comparison: She’s not criticizing the media’s lack of corroboration in reporting on her husband’s accusers, she’s criticizing their lack of proof.
These are two different things.
The standard of what would even constitute proof decades after these stories happened is impossibly high.
Journalists strive to report the truth, but they aren’t part of the judicial system -- they're held to a different burden of proof because they aren’t stripping anyone of their life, liberty or property.
(This is why the histrionic bros who feverishly commented about DUUUUUEEEE PROCCCCESSSSSSSSS on my last Cosby piece are so laughable; did they forget that I’m not a jury?)
Plenty of narratives are technically unprovable -- that’s why we include attribution and corroborating information.
Over 20 accusers telling remarkably similar stories certainly suggests a modus operandi.
Other details line up as well: Janice Dickinson’s story specifically mentioned a chillingly Cosby-esque patchwork robe and snapshots from the evening surfaced days later that confirmed what Cosby was wearing.
Of course, these facts don’t prove anything in the legal sense.
But they lend credibility to their narratives. And outlets have reached out to Cosby for comment repeatedly.
Thus, Camille’s blame would have to fall not on the media, but on the accusers themselves.
That’s where her words seem so familiar: We're more comfortable with the assurance that women lie than the assurance that men rape.
When Camille says that her husband is “a kind man, a generous man, a funny man,” she is essentially reifying the myths we uphold about rape. The proverbial rapist hiding in the bushes is exceedingly rare, but takes up a disproportionate amount of space in rape lore.
It’s a character to whom evil can be effortlessly ascribed, and can act as a placeholder to discuss rape without discussing how it really happens.
The vast majority of rapes are committed by men women know, or even by men they love.
These guys aren’t walking around twirling their villainous mustaches or tapping their claws on the table. They’re building rapport with their victims, and making them laugh.
Getting raped isn’t a failure of character judgment.
Countless women are violated by men they assumed to be kind, generous and funny. Other women internalize their abuse and continue to love and admire the men who hurt them.
It isn’t hard to imagine this happening to Camille.
But even if media outlets really are showing her “the portrait of a man [she] do[es] not know,” it’s disingenuous to assume that no one ever could.