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Bill Cosby’s Silence

The reputation of the iconic family man that brought decades of laughter to millions of homes is crumbling.  And Cosby’s response –or lack of- is not helping his case.

Bill Cosby has remained mostly silent during the incessant accusations recently brought by at least 17 women who say Cosby drugged and sexually abused them decades ago.

The latest accusation comes from Judy Huth, a woman who filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming years of emotional distress after Bill Cosby allegedly attacked her in 1974 when she was 15 years old.

In a statement Cosby gave to Florida Today he said “I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn’t have to answer to innuendos”. These are serious claims and Cosby is showing a sense of disconnect between his response and the gravity of the accusations.

Several of these allegations have been around for years without bigger consequences. But they recently resurfaced after a social media campaign encouraging followers to meme Cosby backfired. Instead of sending funny memes, followers started making references to attacks that allegedly happened decades ago.

Cosby’s fall from grace is partly a result of the growing power of social media, its velocity and reach; of a world with greater transparency and people’s increasing demands for accountability.

When social media rumors go viral, they tend to catch the attention of more traditional media as well. That’s exactly what happened to Cosby. These rumors or accusations don’t typically go away until they find resolution. And no one should be more interested in resolution than the accused party itself.

Cosby’s attorneys have repeatedly denied wrongdoing, and no criminal charges have ever been brought.

In order for Cosby to face trial, he would need to waive the statute of limitation for the alleged attacks. He has little to gain by doing this, so most likely he won’t.

Legal consequences aside, the scandal has taken a toll on Cosby’s reputation and his finances. Without much explanation, NBC and Netflix canceled projects with Cosby, and reruns of “The Cosby Show” have been pulled from cable TV. Under pressure, Cosby resigned from the Board of Trustees at Temple University.

Only a handful of supporters have come forward to stand by the comedian; among them TV personality Whoopy Goldberg and singer Jill Scott. Cosby thanked them via Twitter.

While unfortunate, Cosby’s scandal presents some interesting observations about how to manage a reputation crisis effectively.

Guilty or not, by not responding now or years ago, Cosby is conceding and allowing others to recast his reputation. He might have benefited from being proactive, transparent and sensitive.

Cosby has not faced a court of law but the court of public opinion seems to have already reached a verdict.

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