As an African American woman one who grew up in “The Cosby era,” words cannot express the shock I felt recently when a barrage of rape allegations resurfaced against him in the media. The claims were especially disturbing considering the fact that I’d been alone in a hotel room with for another interview I’d conducted with him for a story a few years prior. I didn’t read much about the first couple of claims, but when the chorus of complaints from women claiming he’d drugged and sexually assaulted them reached the double digits, I knew it was time to start paying attention. When I did I was so inspired, that I actually penned a commentary piece about it for The Huffington Post. I thought that was the end of my Cosby connection, but I was so wrong.
Fast forward a few weeks later and Cosby had comedy shows scheduled for Colorado and major protests were planned. I couldn’t resist trying to get the big interview. I called up an old colleague who does PR for the Cos and politely requested to speak to him one-on-one in Denver. His handlers emphatically responded, “no interviews” and that was that. My colleague did, however, promise to try to get me an interview with the show’s promoter. “I’ll call you back with the promoter on the line so we can discuss your angle in more detail,” he said. About 40 minutes later – while in the midst of changing my son’s diaper, I might add – he called back. When I picked up the first thing I heard was, “Chandra Whitfield, Bill Cosby on the line.” Of course, I’m thinking this is a joke. I was ready to literally LOL, until I heard that signature voice on the other end. It was Bill Cosby. There was some small talk and informal banter at first that included his take on the perils of parenting, but just like his signature stage routine he seamlessly launched into what would become my totally impromptu and unexpected exclusive interview. I scrambled around for a pen and began taking notes. Apparently Cosby was a fan of my previous work with (and on) him, so he spontaneously decided to talk – albeit about everything but those scandalous allegations. Either way, an exclusive is an exclusive and I was glad to know that in the midst of a major “no comment” campaign he chose to speak to me on record. This story ended up on the NBC News homepage the next morning and later in The Crisis. That’s what I love about journalism; you never know what will happen that day after your feet hit the floor in the morning.