NBC stood for "No Bill Cosby" on Friday, Jan. 16. NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt told reporters (including Us Weekly) at a Television Critics Association panel in Beverly Hills that the network was done with Bill Cosby given the many recent sexual assault allegations facing the comedian.
A reporter asked Greenblatt if it was safe to say that NBC — home to the beloved Cosby Show from 1984 to 1992 — would never work again with the beleaguered star, 77, given the deluge of allegations made by more than 20 women. "Yes, I think it's safe to say," the exec told the reporters.
He then defended the network's choice about why it didn't pull Cosby's as-yet-untitled project sooner. "Fifteen women came out and accused him of having done what they had accused him of doing," Greenblatt said in a heated exchange. "While over the years, we'd heard some those accusations and knew there were a couple settlements and what not — it didn’t seem to be the thing that was critical mass."
The network reconsidered its decision as the allegations continued to grow in number and were equally serious in that many involved claims of drugging and some included supposed rape. "When we realized there seemed to be so much more of it, it wasn’t something where we could go, 'Oh, we’re not sure,'" Greenblatt explained. "He hasn’t been proven guilty of anything. I don’t want to be the one who says, 'Guilty until proven innocent.' But when that many people come out and have similar complaints and it becomes such a tainted situation, there was no way we could move forward with it."
The project was supposed to be The Cosby Show actor's big return to primetime television. "The good news is, unlike Netflix — which had a special to run — we were developing a script," Greenblatt said of NBC's project. "We didn’t even have a first draft." (Netflix pulled its planned Cosby stand-up special last November amidst the serious allegations.) "I'm glad we’re out from under that," Greenblatt noted.
Cosby, meanwhile, released a statement (via the Denver Post) on Thursday, Jan. 15, saying he was "far from finished" with his ongoing comedy tour across North America.
"Dear Fans: I have thousands of loyal, patient and courageous fans that are going to leave their homes to enjoy an evening of laughter and return home feeling wonderful," Cosby wrote. "I'm ready! I thank you, the theatre staff, the event organizers and the Colorado Community for your continued support and coming to experience family, fun entertainment."
The assault claims — many of which are decades old — experienced a resurgence this past October after comedian Hannibal Buress called the TV dad a "rapist" in one stand-up set. Despite the overwhelming number of women who have come forward, Cosby's wife and daughter, his on-screen wife Phylicia Rashad, as well as other stars have come forward to defend the embattled comedy legend.