It was 2005, and one of my newspaper buddies and I were casually chatting.
Back then, Nicole Weisensee Egan had been way ahead of every other reporter on the story about the sexual-abuse allegations made against Bill Cosby by Andrea Constand — not that I was paying that much attention. I don’t remember much about our conversation that day other than Egan’s suddenly giving me a piercing look and asking me something like, “Why don’t you care?”
It wasn’t that I didn’t care. I did. But like a lot of folks back then, I was in denial. I didn’t want to believe the ugly accusations being made about Cosby. I had made the mistake of confusing the lovable character he played on The Cosby Show with Cosby the man.
No matter what Egan was writing, to me Cosby was still Dr. Cliff Huxtable. The lovable guy in the sweaters who spoke in that booming Jell-O pudding voice. Not only was he one of the biggest stars in the world, he was financially supporting historically black colleges, promoting black art, popping up at the Penn Relays, and loving on Temple University.
At the same time, Egan was a friend, and I trusted her reporting. I hoped against hope, though, that the accusations were all the result of a big misunderstanding and that Cosby would be exonerated.
Fast forward to now. Egan has written Chasing Cosby: The Downfall of America’s Dad about the years she spent covering the case first for the Daily News and later for People magazine.
We know now that not only were Constand’s allegations about being drugged and sexually assaulted at Cosby’s Cheltenham mansion true, but that numerous other women have stepped forward to accuse him of similar misdeeds.
Several of them testified before Cosby was sentenced to three to 10 years behind bars. I’ve met a few of them and seen the pain in their eyes. Yes, I believe them. The Cos we all thought we knew was an illusion.
Chasing Cosby is meticulously researched, and takes readers painstakingly from Constand’s 2005 awakening that she had indeed been raped to the indelible image of a handcuffed Cosby being escorted to prison.
The thing is, Egan started out like most of us — saying, “Not the Cos!” and not wanting to believe the sordid allegations lodged against the avuncular entertainer. She loved him, too. While in high school, she watched The Cosby Show to escape the trauma and sadness of her older brother’s untimely death. But over time, Egan became convinced there was a dangerous side to Cosby that the world needed to see.
“So I wrote about the case. I wrote and wrote about Andrea Constand, the court filings, the evidence, the other accusers,” Egan explains in Chasing Cosby. “The more I wrote about the case, the more the story spread, and other news outlets picked it up and broadcast the details I’d reported."
We all know how it ends.
Egan will talk about Chasing Cosby at the Central Library, 1901 Vine St., at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 30. Another former newspaper colleague, Annette John-Hall, cohost and producer of The Why on WHYY, will lead the discussion.
Egan, whom I don’t see much now that she’s left the paper, asked me to stop by and support.
I can think of plenty of things I would rather do on a Tuesday night than go to the library and be reminded of Cosby’s tragic downfall.
But Egan’s a friend.