By: Meredith Ward
My research team initially decided to do our research paper on Bill Cosby, the sexual allegations made against him and his shift in image that occurred thereafter. We chose Cosby due to the amount of media coverage and the responses that were made during his case and the way his positive reputation completely shifted to become negative.
Cosby, who was once identified as the most popular comedian on television is now forever seen as a “rapist.” He was accused by over 40 women of rape, facilitated sexual assault, sexual battery, child abuse and sexual misconduct over the entirety of his acting career.
We decided to begin our research with three questions that follow:
- What strategies did Bill Cosby use to attempt to repair his image as a result of the scandal?
- How effective were the image repair strategies that Bill Cosby used?
- Did Cosby’s use of silence benefit or harm his attempts at image repair?
The first question is important for our research to find out which strategies Cosby used to discover if he was attempting to repair his image. The second question specifically helps us discover the effectiveness of his strategies and finally, the third question helps us conclude whether or not Cosby’s use of strategic silence was beneficial in the end.
Included in our research are the image repair strategies and tactics introduced by Benoit such as, denial, evasion of responsibility, reduction of offensiveness, corrective action and mortification.
According to Cosby’s case though, we can conclude that he used simple denial, minimization, strategic silence, attacking the accuser and bolstering. Cosby uses simple denial when he chose to deny all sexual assault allegations. He uses minimization when he continued to live his daily life, then he uses strategic silence by not responding to allegations in certain interviews. Cosby moves further and attacks his accusers by attacking the credibility of the women who were accusing him. Lastly, Cosby uses the bolstering strategy when he tried to bolster his own image on social media by using memes and encouraging others to do the same.
According to Oshmyansky 2014, simple denial and strategic silence were used when Cosby’s lawyer spoke for him and said, “Over the last several weeks, decade-old, discredited allegations against Mr. Cosby have resurfaced. The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true. Mr. Cosby does not intend to dignify these allegations with any comment. He would like to thank all his fans for the outpouring of support and assure them that, at age 77, he is doing his best work. There will be no further statement from Mr. Cosby or any of his representatives.”
In the case of accusing the attacker, Cosby responded to the allegations and coverage by saying, “I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy does not have to answer to innuendos. People should fact-check. People shouldn’t have to go through that and answer to innuendos” (Nunez, 2014).
Cosby continued to use Benoit’s strategies by using hashtags with his tweets to deny the accusations. For example, #YAHOO!, #JournalistGetsItRight, #MoreGreatNews. In addition to the previously mentioned strategies, Cosby and his team created memes in hopes of bolstering his image but it backfired when fans used it against him.
After much research, my team concluded that Bill Cosby, the once famous comedian on national television is unfortunately seen as a man guilty of a numerous amount of sexual assaults. Considering the strategies he chose to use and the way he used them and also the strategies he forgot to use such as, mortification, we can conclude that Cosby ineffectively used the image repair strategies and tactics developed by Benoit and therefore, ruined his once positive image for forever.