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Bill Cosby says race plays ‘some’ role in his sexual assault scandal

Bill Cosby Racism Role

Bill Cosby departs the Montgomery County Courthouse after a preliminary hearing, May 24, 2016, in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Cosby was ordered to stand trial on sexual assault charges after a hearing that hinged on a decade-old police report. (Photo by Matt Rourke-Pool/Getty Images)

Bill Cosby is finally breaking his silence on the controversy which has permanently tarnished his image and career and may send him to prison, and he and his family are not backing down in the face of withering criticism and press.

In an exclusive interview with Sirius XM’s Michael Smerconish, which will air in full on Tuesday, Cosby suggested that race “could be” a factor in the massive volume of allegations of sexual assault and drugging which have been directed at him in the last two-plus years.

“There are many tentacles,” Cosby said. “So many different — ‘nefarious’ is a great word, And I just truly believe that some of it may very well be that.”

Cosby made the remarks in the wake of statements released Monday by daughters Erinn and Ensa on the popular radio show “The Breakfast Club.”

“I strongly believe my father is innocent of the crimes that are alleged against him and I believe that racism has played a big role in all aspects of this scandal. How the charges came against him, how people believed them before they were ever scrutinized or tested, how people who questioned the claims were shut down and ignored,” Ensa Cosby wrote.

“The media created the story and the outcome before any court will ever test the claims. How my father is being punished by a society that still believes that black men rape white women that passes off as ‘boys will be boys’ when white men are accused,” added Erinn in her statement.

This is not the first time race has emerged as a rationale for the 79-year-old icon and his defenders to explain the eruption of accusers that began in the aftermath of a Hannibal Burress stand-up routine that alluded to past allegations of sexual assault against the legendary comedian.

Since then more than 50 women who have accused him of drugging and/or sexually assaulting them over several decades — leading to criminal charges relating to a 2004 encounter he claims was consensual with a former employee at his alma mater Temple University.

In an effort to get cases against him dismissed, Cosby’s attorneys have previously floated the idea that one of his adversaries —attorney Gloria Allred — who represents a number of his accusers — has waged a campaign against the comedian based on “racial bias and prejudice.”

And in a separate filing, his attorneys alluded to the “the unfortunate role that racial bias still plays in our criminal justice system.”

However, a large number of the women who have come forward to accuse him are African-American.

“He complains about racial but what about the African-American woman whom I represent who accuse him of sexual assault or rape and refuse to remain silent about thaw they say they have suffered?” Allred wrote in a statement last fall.

“What about us black woman whom he sexually assaulted,” added Cosby accuser and actress Lili Bernard in an interview with NBC News last year. “We’re talking about a man who serially raped at least 60 women and that’s where the focus must be. Race has nothing to do with it.”

In the same Sirius XM interview, Cosby claimed that alleged victims were “piling on” and that their actions were “certainly an impressive, impressive way to get public opinion to come to the other side.”

In his only prior remarks — not through his attorneys — regarding the allegations against him, he also raised the specter of race.

In a phone interview with the New York Post back in December of 2014, when the scandal was just gaining steam, he suggested that “black media” would remain “neutral” and would “uphold the standards of excellence in journalism” while covering the fallout.

For years now, his family and former co-stars like Phylicia Rashad have implied that some sort of coordinated conspiracy involving his accusers is at play.

Indeed, initially most, if not all, of Cosby’s most prominent defenders were prominent black media figures like singer Jill Scott, actress Whoopi Goldberg and comedian Eddie Griffin. But as a steady stream of accusers emerged over the last two years, many of whom describe the same kinds of encounters with Cosby, coupled with the revelation that he admitted under oath in 2005 to drugging women for the purposes of sex (although he maintained it was with their knowledge) the chorus of allies for this once beloved sitcom star has quieted down considerably.

Now that he is speaking out and invoking race again — only time will tell if this effort to rally the black community behind him will prove successful.

There isn’t a lot of polling out there on the Cosby story — but recent numbers suggest that the public overwhelmingly believes he is guilty. The former “Cosby Show” star was once not one of the most admired black Americans, but one of the most popular entertainers in the country period. Today, his name has become a punchline for late night comics and a symbol for the millions of women who are victims of sexual assault of how toxic male privilege mixed with wealth and celebrity can be.

Adam Howard is a researcher for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, which airs on TBS. Follow him on Twitter @at_howard.

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