Apr 26, 2018, 3:06 PM ET

Bill Cosby guilty: How his legacy is changed forever


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Bill Cosby has been found guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand more than a decade ago.

With this verdict, and Cosby facing a maximum 10-year sentence on each of the three counts of aggravated indecent assault, will his fans turn their backs on the entertainment empire he's built, spanning four decades -- from stand-up comedy, to the small screen to blockbuster films?

For many, the answer is yes. His legacy of laughs died in the courtroom.

PHOTO: Bill Cosby with Phylicia Rashad who starred with him in the Bill Cosby Show, circa. 1991. Redux, FILE
Bill Cosby with Phylicia Rashad who starred with him in the "Bill Cosby Show," circa. 1991.

"His empire has been forever tarnished and tainted ... as is his legacy," ABC News Senior Legal Correspondent Sunny Hostin said. "I just don’t think he can then go back as 'America’s Dad' or go back to America as a moral authority."

Cosby has also been accused by more than 50 other women of drugging or sexual misconduct. He hasn't been charged with any crimes in those cases and has maintained his innocence.

William Henry Cosby Jr. in part became a modern-day moral authority when he gave his now famous respectability speech, given at a 2004 NAACP event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, which desegregated public schools.

He criticized the black poor, blaming their plight on a culture of poverty, lack of education and lack of parenting instead of institutionalized discrimination and racism.

The statues come down, I think. The names come off the buildings. I think the first line of the obituary changes.

"In our own neighborhood, we have men in prison," Cosby began. "No longer is a person embarrassed because they’re pregnant without a husband. No longer is a boy considered an embarrassment if he tries to run away from being the father of the unmarried child. ...In the neighborhood that most of us grew up in, parenting is not going on."

It may be the reason why Cosby acted as parent to many students at Temple University, where he graduated from in 1971.

The comedian stepped down from the Philadelphia university's board of trustees in 2014 amid his scandal, but the school still has a $3,000 scholarship in his name called The Cosby Scholarship, given to rising juniors majoring in the natural sciences, according to the school's website.

Temple alumnus Adriene Boone said when she matriculated there, from 2002 to 2006, she knew a Cosby that "would always show up at the sporting events, he would do the freshman orientation sometimes, and get you pumped about being a Temple Owl."

Calling him a "figure of school pride," Boone remembers her class of 2006 being disappointed that Cosby wouldn't speak at their graduation -- a long-standing tradition.

Cosby was asked not to speak at Temple University's graduation as he did in years prior, months after Constand filed a civil lawsuit against Cosby. In the suit, she included depositions from 13 other women, claiming they were sexually assaulted by the Temple alumnus over the years.

PHOTO: Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial, Thursday, April 26, 2018, at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa.Matt Slocum/AP
Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial, Thursday, April 26, 2018, at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa.

"As a 21-year-old, no one really watched the news so you didn't know what was happening so I think everyone was just kind of sad about it," Boone explained. "But I don’t think anyone thought about the gravity of the situation at the time. As an adult, I will say I'm hurt."

Cosby's legacy going forward will not only include what happened in court today, but it'll also include his greatest achievement. Cosby created the American family fantasy: a happily married mother and father, who had high-powered professions and healthy kids who only got in the sort of trouble where you could laugh about it at the end of the episode.

And although many networks have pulled re-runs of the hit "Cosby Show," which ran from 1984 until 1992, its spin-off, "A Different World," still airs on TV and was recently picked up by Netflix. Not to mention, in May 2015, Cosby wrapped up his latest comedy tour, "Far From Finished."

After this, will fans still remember the Cosby that made them laugh, or the Cosby that let them down?

"The statues come down, I think. The names come off the buildings. I think the first line of the obituary changes," longtime entertainment journalist and ESPN correspondent Chris Connelly said. "I think everything changes. I think to some degree a lot of that has already happened."

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  • pbgd

    He is an actor. Actors make money playing different parts -- good and bad people. It is just make-believe play-acting. The imaginary Huxtable was just fiction, has nothing to do with the actor. So there is no 'legacy' because a person named Huxtable has never existed in the first place.

  • sadie220

    Don't anybody ever tell me that his wife did not know or suspect this.

  • Quantez Williams

    With the conviction, you will see many more lawsuits; his lawyers are going to make a ton of money. I wonder how much they will Bill Cosby.

  • Bernard Sandan

    he has to pay for his crime.

  • Quantez Williams

    I don't care, just as I don't care what Kevin Spacey did. I'll watch what I want to watch. And I still watch lots of Mirimax movies.

  • foereel

    He can be a mentor to youth of color in the yard, with his inspirational style. Showing them that a life of crime is going down the wrong path. In that sense, he still has much to contribute.

  • mv75

    This must be sort of how the families of a criminal feel when they see them convicted. I grew up watching him. I remember my mom watching him on I Spy and then watched him on Cosby, as well as his stand up routines. Common sense, family values, etc. I think he's guilty as hell and needs to pay for his crimes but I'm sad at the same time.

  • srichey321

    Hollywood, media creation.

  • Christopher Kelly

    House Arrest , for the rest of his life, 10 yrs ?? Maybe, Pretty Stiff sentence, Spends the rest of his life in a
    20 Milllion Dollar Madison ,

  • Judy

    Why did the police not cuff him and take him away?

  • Murfski

    I'm not particularly surprised to see this kind of thing among the rich and powerful, but this one hurts. Knowing he isn't what I thought he was saddens me. I'll miss the image I used to have of him.

  • Teddy

    I use to love listening to this guys comedy records and I played them over and over. I got up on Saturday morning when I was a kid and watched the Fat Albert cartoons. I'm gonna keep that and do my best to not mix those fun memories with what he's done.

  • Traveler1

    It's just another example of how deceitful people can be. Here is a guy who broke through a lot of barriers. Who stood for things people of all races and backgrounds could embrace, but behind closed doors he was a sexual predator.

    He has a wife and , I believe, four surviving daughters. Can you imagine how they feel?

    Cosby thought the'd get away with it because he was BILL COSBY, but justice and just as importantly the American public is beginning to catch on to duplicity a famous or not so famous person is capable of.

    At 80 any prison sentence is probably a death sentence. But it's long overdue.

  • Chip Welte

    He was a comedian for God's sake. He was funny. I never looked to him for any moral guidance, anymore than I would look to Cher Bono for moral guidance. I couldn't care less about any aspect of his private life.

  • Tegbessou Géléhéso

    The women's movement is cresting... the winds of change are upon us and it's about time..

  • SMRT

    Too bad he wasn’t the role model everyone wished he was.

  • shivas

    Was the proof in the pudding?

  • Johnttom

    I'll never be able to eat a pudding pop again

  • ToothyGrinn

    He'll die before he goes to prison

  • kissatek

    A sad moment. It is hard to see someone who once held such a positive place be shown to have a morally disgraceful core. It's a shame he couldn't allow that which he portrayed to the world encompass his life. I fully believe that this is a case of following a once accepted culture but he had a choice, the disgrace is his own.

  • accolade

    The Cosby Show will forever hold a special place for me as far as pioneer black sitcoms.
    I'm not going to change my view on on that despite Bill Cosby's career being tarnished.
    The Heathcliff Huxtable character was a positive role model.
    You would think Bill would have caught on to this and changed his ways decades ago.

  • Brandelyn Bostic

    ..It was a tv show that was and is rare..even today for its positive/successful light and love of the so called black family unit. It was encouraging and that is not common for "those kinds of people" ....apparently...its rare. In the years after the shows' end, he began to attack and ridicule that same family unit.. The "legacy" was given to him and now it has been taken from him. His criticism of the community that supported him most is interesting.. Cosby forgot who he was and what he was, somehow he was convinced that he, was one of the boys(i.e, Hefner).. He knows better now that he's had the reality check.. My personal feelings and given the climate of today's society even down to the WORDS and ACTIONS of the PRESIDENT towards women CLEARLY there is a PROBLEM a SERIOUS PROBLEM within our society. ..so, HE who is withOUT sin, cast the first stone. .. (crickets)

  • jjjddd

    "jello" defense melts!

  • Kaye


  • Jim_Reality

    He so needs to get in the dirt now.

  • Realpshep

    Chastising us while you were out doping and raping women. But he never chastised drug dealers, pimps, rapists or other sexual deviants...makes sense now

  • scott

    oh how the mighty have fallen

  • Smarter Then You

    It must have been some pretty damning evidence for the jury to come back unanimous. Curious as to what is the ‘proof’, as it were.

  • (redacted)

    Crazy that someone as rich and famous as him had to stoop to these lows. It's not about sex at that point, as he likely could have had that considering who he was.