What’s Left for Bill Cosby to Lose?

A viewer looks at the website of the Capitol Theatre in Yakima, Washington announcing the cancellation of Bill Cosby's upcoming show.
A viewer looks at the website of the Capitol Theatre in Yakima, Washington announcing the cancellation of Bill Cosby's upcoming show.

Bill Cosby’s fall from grace has been as swift as it has been random. A bit from comic Hannibal Burress at a nightclub reignited the public interest into the many sexual assault allegations made against Cosby. At last tally, there are more than 20 women who have, at some point or another, come forward to accuse Cosby of sexual abuse.

The price he’s paid has already been steep. NBC pulled his latest project, Cosby Show reruns have been halted, Netflix “postponed’’ their working relationship, and he has had tour dates canceled. Still, Cosby could stand to lose even more.

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But exactly how much more?

The Suspension of Disbelief

Cosby smiled, fathered, and danced his way into America’s heart as Cliff Huxtable, the successful father and doctor on The Cosby Show. Since the show’s completion, Cosby has replicated his Huxtable character in most all of his roles. We know Cliff Huxtable. Until the reruns were pulled, we could see him every day of the week for at least a half hour at a time. But we don’t know Cosby. If this saga continues––if more women come forward, if more details are released, and if Cosby actually has to go to court over any of this––the time that the public spends seeing a Cosby divorced from Cliff Huxtable may sway the court of public opinion.

More Tour Dates, Money

Cosby’s net worth is estimated to fall somewhere in the range of $350 and $400 million. If those figures are accurate, he doesn’t exactly need the tour money. His insistence on feeding fans the type of comedy that he based his show upon only bolsters his image. Not only that, but with the sudden loss of syndication revenue, a lack of endorsement deals, no tour and the rise of legal fees, Cosby could find himself in hot water. It is likely, especially considering recent revelations, that money has held many of these allegations at bay. With less of it coming in, and a slew of legal battles possible, if the money dries up, the dam on allegations could break.

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His High Horse

Cosby scored a lot of points by bashing urban blacks with the same tired talking points you find your drunk uncle spouting off during holiday gatherings. He was so loved for his remarks it has spurred Rush Limbaugh to allege a conspiracy. But Cosby has been bashed by comics before for his squeaky clean material. Eddie Murphy did it best. But an alleged serial rapist would find very little country for social commentary, regardless of whether or not they were once one of America’s most beloved pitchmen.

His Platform

Cosby has been a superstar since the 8-track tape. His output has ebbed and flowed at times since then, but his star has never waned. Now? He’s 77, with a glut of salacious allegations. He has no show on television. His tour is greatly diminished. Prominent companies have backed away from him. What’s more, none of his co-stars or contemporaries have come forward to vouch for his character. In the unlikely event he goes to trial and loses, his platform will shrink to his cellblock. But even if he doesn’t, even if this new wave of allegations becomes background noise like the allegations that preceded them, the public will not forget. Companies will think twice about hitching a product or a campaign to Cosby. Prominent comedy venues and major television networks will do the same. These allegations, whether or not they make it to a courtroom, have likely placed a much lower ceiling on the future of Cosby’s career.

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