New York Times columnist David Carr has taken a number of writers and mediates — including himself — to task for turning a blind eye to the numerous allegations of sexual assault leveled against Bill Cosby, and he’s already elicited one mea culpa in response.
In addition to admitting his own accountability, Carr called out Ta-Nehisi Coates, who penned a lengthy essay on the comedian in The Atlantic in 2008; Kelefa Sanneh, who wrote a New Yorker profile on Cosby in September; and Mark Whitaker, who wrote an extensive biography on Cosby published just two months ago; noting that they all failed to properly address the accusations, despite the fact that they were “carefully and thoroughly reported” in Philadelphia magazine, People magazine and Today in 2005 and 2006.
“We all have our excuses, but in ignoring these claims, we let down the women who were brave enough to speak out publicly against a powerful entertainer,” Carr wrote in a Monday column. “Mr. Whitaker has said he didn’t want to put anything in the book, which he wrote with Mr. Cosby’s cooperation, that wasn’t confirmed — which of course raises the question of why he wouldn’t have done the work to knock down the accusations or make them stand up. And given that the accusations had already been carefully and thoroughly reported in Philadelphia magazine and elsewhere, any book of the size and scope of Mr. Whitaker’s should have gone there.”
Whitaker took to Twitter on Monday afternoon to respond to Carr’s column, admitting that he should’ve investigated the allegations more thoroughly.
Carr noted that Coates also revisited his Cosby coverage on The Atlantic’s website and admitted that at the time he wrote the piece, he “believed that Bill Cosby was a rapist,” but included only “a brief and limp mention of the accusations against Cosby.” Coates went on to write, “I regret not saying what I thought of the accusations, and then pursuing those thoughts. I regret it because the lack of pursuit puts me in league with people who either looked away, or did not look hard enough. I take it as a personal admonition to always go there, to never flinch, to never look away.”
Sanneh does not seem to be active on Twitter, but appeared on an MSNBC segment over the weekend to discuss the Cosby allegations, telling host Melissa Harris-Perry, “It’s easy to look at the Huxtable family and say ‘oh, that must be what Bill Cosby is like’ … Just because a comedian has politics we agree with, just because a comedian makes work we agree with, doesn’t mean, necessarily, they’re not capable of what Bill Cosby’s accused of.”