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“Bill cosby 1969” by William Morris Agency Uploaded by We hope at en.wikipedia – eBay item photo front photo back Transferred from en.wikipedia by SreeBot. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

It’s been a slow death for the legend of Bill Cosby. As allegations of sexual assault — decades-old claims that are now being treated with appropriate gravity — envelop the 77-year-old Cosby, it’s easy to forget it’s been nearly 20 years since the Autumn Jackson trial showed us that America’s Dad might have been a lot more like a deadbeat than you realized. That was before social media, so her attempt to extort money from Cosby so she wouldn’t tell the world about his affair with her mother (and her claim that he was her father) vanished from mainstream memory.

Anyone who pretends to be incapable of believing he could do anything wrong is lying. Even if he wasn’t Jackson’s father, Cosby must’ve noticed the smoke from the fire that had been set to his pristine image. But the only person striking a match in public was a woman who seemed unhinged, and that was enough for many to ignore something few wished to consider: the possibility that Bill Cosby was a fraud.

It’s a lot harder to ignore 15 women, though, even if we don’t know very much about whether or not Cosby is a sexual predator. Sexual assault is a crime that few women claim falsely, but few isn’t none, and a certain presumption of innocence is responsible, even if it isn’t required. But the breadth and sheer volume of these allegations make it difficult to afford Cosby the benefit of the doubt for any reason other than obligation. Some of those women may be lying, but the likelihood that they all – 15 women and counting – are is asymptotically approaching zero. That small chance is enough to keep him out of jail, but not enough for reasonable people to dismiss.

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