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May 25, 2016

No, Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton are not the same person

Yes, each has faced sex-assault allegations, but only one is currently on criminal trial

Opinion

I think we can all agree that nothing is too risqué or overblown to qualify as a “news story” in this year’s presidential election cycle, right? Right.

With that baseline established, I’d like to draw your attention to a flubbed quote from MSNBC’s coverage of Tuesday’s Bill Cosby hearing in Norristown.

Here’s the transcribed quote: “Right now out of Pennsylvania, Bill Clinton is set to arrive at a suburban, excuse me, Bill Cosby is set to, survi, to arrive at a suburban Philadelphia courthouse any moment now for a key hearing in his criminal sex-assault case.”

And, here’s the video:

This is the type of delivery that opens the door for a trillion "Freudian slip" quips.

As you likely already know, the judge refused to dismiss the sex-assault case at that preliminary hearing as Cosby’s attorneys showed some of their hand as to what accuser Andrea Constand should expect to see and hear from the stand at trial.

Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby are different people, obviously. This is something on which we can all agree, too, right? Well, that’s where things get a little trickier.

Sure, they’re two different human beings, but that doesn’t mean people won’t try to equate their (alleged) crimes against others in the name of political gain.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump already has an attack ad featuring a clip from a 1999 interview of Juanita Broaddrick, who accused Clinton of rape in 1978. If that happened without the campaign consulting her, it's exploitative at best.

So, yes, both BCs stand accused of sexual assault, albeit to markedly different extents.

Social media being social media, the Twittersphere has already set out to frame this issue as a condemnation of the Clintons, the media, liberals, Trump, his adviser Sam Clovis and anything else to which they can hang it.

This point/counterpoint should get you up to speed should you not have time to go down that Twitter rabbit hole.




Sexual-assault victims should never be reduced to campaign props.

It’s inherently wrong, and beyond unseemly, to compare, contrast and judge sexual assault allegations. Victims of all crimes grapple with the aftermath in deeply personal ways; that's amplified when sex crimes are involved.

It bears mention that there is one major difference at play here: Cosby faces criminal charges in connection with the alleged 2004 incident; Bill Clinton does not in his 1978 case. The only reason Cosby is facing those charges is not because of a cover-up but, in an avalanche of accusations, prosecutors raced against the clock to beat the statue-of-limations deadline.

This shouldn’t have to be explained, but here we are anyway thanks to an election cycle light on facts.

Broaddrick had been averse to publicly sharing her story as rumors began to swirl around the time Bill Clinton first sought the presidency.

In fending off those who wanted her to tell the story, she issued a terse denial that may have hindered the ability to bring charges. These days, she’s not as shy about letting people know her thoughts about victimization.


Broaddrick should share her experiences as widely as she wants, whenever she wants, however she wants. If but not for that kind of bravery from Cosby victim after Cosby victim after Cosby victim, etc., the comedian may never have been called to answer for his alleged crimes.

That dynamic makes this situation even trickier, and why I’m loathe to outright dismiss the politicization of Bill Clinton’s history, having gone so far as to read FoxNews’s “Millennials' Guide to Bill Clinton’s 20+ Sex Scandals.” 

But let's be clear about one thing: If the victims want to make it fair game, it's fair game. If they don't, it isn't.

What Broaddrick may or may not want to say about Hillary’s campaign would be damaging enough without being turned into a tenuous talking point.

So let's agree that Bill Cosby is Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton is Bill Clinton and their (alleged) victims are left to deal with the damaging repercussions of their experiences.

If the allegations against the Bills are true, their very names would be sullied enough that turning them into hashtag quips isn't necessary.

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