Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Members of 'Black Media' say it's not their job to protect Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby has implored the “black media” to remain “neutral” as he faces mounting allegations of sexual misconduct that have threatened his career. But some members of the “black media”, if such a monolithic entity can even be said to exist, say it’s not their job to protect the fallen star, despite what he has meant to the African American community.

Nearly two dozen women have accused the embattled 77-year-old star of drugging and then raping or sexually assaulting them. The alleged incidents, which Cosby has consistently denied, stretch back more than four decades. 

After weeks of silence, Cosby gave a brief interview to the New York Post in which he criticized the media’s coverage of the stories about him and appealed to black media “to uphold the standards of excellence in journalism and when you do that you have to go in with a neutral mind”. (Cosby has since, through his lawyer, claimed the Post reporter with whom he spoke misrepresented himself as a freelance reporter for black news outlets.)

“There’s something deeply painful about it all,” said David Wilson, co-founder and executive editor of the Grio.

“What people don’t understand, and particularly white Americans don’t understand, is that Bill Cosby changed the way black people saw themselves,” Wilson continued. “And if this guy is somehow a phony, if this guy is somehow a crooked person, then what does that say? How do we go back and be proud of what this guy’s done – the thing that he’s done that made us feel so great about ourselves? That’s why it’s such a big story for black America.”

Akiba Solomon, the editorial director of  Colorlines.com   called Cosby’s comments “insulting” to black journalists. “Media is media,” she said, adding that it’s unfair for the comedian to place the burden on black news outlets specifically.
“It makes it seem that black media should take special care of him, and that by taking special care of him that we’re protecting a prominent black man who’s done nothing wrong,” Solomon said. “That’s problematic.”

She said she interpreted Cosby’s comments as a strategic attempt to play up the idea that the allegations against him were part of a “racially motivated” conspiracy theory propelled by the mostly white media. She said this is a powerful tactic, because, as she pointed out, there are always people willing to bring down prominent black figures: “The FBI tracked Martin Luther King,” she noted as an example.

“It seems he was trying to say that black media has a greater responsibility to be ‘neutral’ because of this alleged conspiracy,” she said.

In an interview with The Wrap, the president of the National Association of Black Journalists, Bob Butler, said Cosby shouldn’t  have singled out black media.

“I don’t see this as a racial issue. This is an issue of journalists who are reporting on allegations and asking for comments,” Butler told the website. “That’s what we’re trained to do. We look at both sides of the story. One side of the story are people making allegations, and it’s our responsibility to try and find out what his response is.”

Twitter users responded with similar criticism of the star’s request.

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