Vrijdag 05/03/2021

New York Times

Amid Uproar, Cosby Gets Standing Ovations at Florida Show

Cosby tijdens zijn optreden, gisteravond in een uitverkocht King Center for Performing Arts. Beeld PHOTO_NEWS
Cosby tijdens zijn optreden, gisteravond in een uitverkocht King Center for Performing Arts.Beeld PHOTO_NEWS

The uproar over allegations that Bill Cosby had molested or assaulted several women, in some cases years ago, was almost nowhere in evidence on Friday night during a sold-out performance by the 77-year-old comedian on a college campus here.

Despite exhortations by a local radio station - and an offer of money to anyone who had the nerve - no one stood up during Cosby's 90-minute appearance on the campus of Eastern Florida State College to demand an explanation from him about the women's accusations, something he has studiously avoided doing since the controversy arose.

Instead, Cosby - who did not address the issues - was greeted with a standing ovation and sent offstage with a second ?one at the end of his show.

Outside the theater, however, three protesters held signs criticizing "victim shaming," while another sign said, "Rape is no joke." The protesters were kept more than ?2?00 yards ?from the theater and next to a main road, on orders from the police.

Earlier on Friday, three women - Renita Chaney Hill, Angela Leslie and Kristina Ruehli - were the latest to publicly detail their experiences with Cosby, all telling similar stories of being given drugs or alcohol before being sexually assaulted.

And in an interview on WPTV in West Palm Beach, Florida, another woman, Therese Serignese, 57, a registered nurse, has accused Cosby of drugging and having sex with her after one of his shows at the Las Vegas Hilton in 1976 when she was 19.

Cosby's lawyers have routinely characterized such allegations as unfounded.

Amid the drumbeat of accusations, NBC on Wednesday said it was canceling a Cosby pilot project, and the cable network TV Land quietly stopped showing repeats of "The Cosby Show."

Less than 24 hours earlier, Netflix said it was postponing the debut of a comedy special. Other scheduled appearances by Cosby - on David Letterman's late-night show and Queen Latifah's daytime talk show - have also been canceled.

In addition, two more shows on Cosby's stand-up comedy tour were canceled: one at the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and another at the Virginia Theater in Champaign, Illinois. More than 30 performances remain on a schedule that runs well into next spring.

No disruptions occurred

Campus officials here had braced themselves for trouble. By midafternoon, four police cars were parked at the entrance to the 2,016-seat Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts, and members of the audience were advised before Cosby took the stage that there "may be attempts to disrupt tonight's performance."

"If a disruption occurs," the announcer went on, "please keep calm and do not confront the person making the disruption."

None occurred, and the comedian, seated for most of the show, calmly proceeded through a jovial routine that hewed closely to themes of family foibles.

Cosby broke his silence on the matter in an interview Friday with the newspaper Florida Today, saying that a radio station's offers of cash and prizes to interrupt his performance had merely fostered a "frat house mentality."

"Now suppose someone brings a weapon or decided to do more foolishness," Cosby said.

People attending the show here were almost uniformly supportive of the veteran comedian, although officials at the theater said some ticket holders - they would not divulge the number - ?had demanded refunds. There appeared to be at least two dozen empty seats in the auditorium.

In interviews before the performance, the overriding theme of the comments was that nothing had been proved against Cosby and that the women who had come forward must be doing so solely for financial gain.

"I bet if he gave every one of them $2 million, they'd never say a word again," Marc Linden, a 65-year-old former elementary school teacher, said as he took photographs of the television satellite trucks on Post Road. "They just want the money. If all this was true, these women would have come out a long time ago."

A lawyer for Cosby, Martin Singer, told the entertainment trade paper Variety recently that the women's claims were "fabricated or unsubstantiated."

A demonstrator here, however, saw it differently.

"The backlash against these women who have come forward has really bothered me," said Tamara Allredge, a 46-year-old hairdresser from Orlando who previously worked as a counselor to rape victims. "I believe in innocent until proven guilty, but it goes both ways.

"These women are brave. They have a right to be listened to."

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