PHILADELPHIA — Weeks before his criminal trial begins, Bill Cosby gave a rare interview to a radio host, saying racism and “nefarious” motivations could be behind the allegations against him.
The interview was an unusual one for Cosby, who has rarely addressed the accusations made by more than 50 women, many of whom say that he drugged and sexually assaulted them.
Cosby and two of his daughters are stepping up in his defense in what appears to be a media campaign timed right before his June 5 trial and jury selection next week.
In an interview on Monday, Cosby spoke with Michael Smerconish on his radio program on the SiriusXM POTUS channel that will air Tuesday.
“Nefarious is a great word. And I just truly believe that some of it may very well be that,” Cosby said about the allegations against him.
On Monday, two of his daughters released statements professing their father’s innocence and touting his achievements.
Both daughters blamed the media for damaging Cosby’s reputation in a recorded statement which aired on another popular radio show, “The Breakfast Club.”
“My father has been publicly lynched in the media,” Ensa Cosby said in the audio statement.
Their pre-recorded statements were provided by Cosby’s publicist. His daughters vigorously defended him as a civil rights activist, advocate for children, educator, philanthropist and role model.
“I will be the first to say that the acts of which my father is accused are unthinkable knowing the man who is my dad,” daughter Erinn Cosby said in her statement.
Another daughter, Evin Cosby, had issued a similar statement defending her father in April.
The daughters have not appeared in traditional interviews, which might be part of their PR strategy.
Cosby, who was beloved by millions as Dr. Huxtable — the sweet, sweater-wearing father — on the sitcom “The Cosby Show,” also stepped up his Twitter activity in recent days.
On Monday, he tweeted that he loved his wife, Camille, and his four daughters, including his late son Ennis.
The timing of the Cosby’s media exposure appears intentional, said Page Pate, a legal analyst and a criminal defense attorney.
“The entire narrative is that Bill Cosby is a sexual predator. There hasn’t been pushback from his side,” he said. “If you know there are potential jurors, it’s not a bad idea to get your version of the story out there — at least for someone who had a lot of credibility in the public.”
“When you’ve got America’s dad, you probably want him or his family making statements to sway public opinion or push back on the negative press that you see.”
It’s a PR issue that Cosby’s lead attorney Angela Agrusa is well aware of.
“The challenge for us is to change the optics,” she told “The Hollywood Reporter” about the defense that she intended to mount in his upcoming trial.
Cosby, 79, has said little publicly since October 2014, when a stand-up routine by comedian Hannibal Buress encouraged people to Google “Bill Cosby rape.”
“It’s like the court of public opinion has found him guilty and our job as lawyers is we now have to convince not just the judge but also the public why the initial verdict is wrong. The burden of proof for this one human being has shifted,” Agrusa said to THR in April.
In a two-minute excerpt from Cosby’s interview with Smerconish, the radio host played a clip of his daughter Ensa’s audio statement declaring, “I strongly believe my father is innocent of the crimes alleged against him, and I believe that racism has played a big role in all aspects of this scandal.”
“Do you agree with that?” the host asked Cosby.
“Could be. Could be,” Cosby replied. “I can’t say anything but there are certain things that I look at and I apply to the situation and there are so many tentacles.”
When Smerconish pointed out that his accusers are both black and white, Cosby suggested they were “motivated” by different factors – not always racism.
“When you look at the power structure and when you look at individuals, there are some people that can very well be motivated by whether or not they’re going to work or whether they might be able to get back at someone,” he said.
“So in terms of whatever the choice is I think that you can also examine individuals and situations, and they will come out differently. So it’s not all, it’s not every. But I do think there’s some.”
This is the first time Cosby has faced criminal charges, although more than 50 women have come forward in recent years. In many of these cases, Cosby cannot stand trial because the statute of limitations has passed.
His criminal trial is set to begin next month in Montgomery County, Pa.
Cosby faces three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, but, if he’s found guilty, the judge has the option to have him serve the sentences concurrently.
Cosby has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The 2004 case involves Andrea Constand, an employee at his alma mater, Temple University, who was the first of dozens of women who have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct.
She claims Cosby invited her to his home in 2004, and was allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted. During a deposition in the case, which Cosby gave in 2005, he admitted sexual contact with Constand but said it was consensual.