Is Beverly Johnson’s Vanity Fair Accusation The Nail In Cosby’s Coffin?

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December 11, 2014 3:13 p.m.

Now it’s not just one, but two extremely famous models who have added their names to the growing list of women accusing Bill Cosby of sexual abuse and misconduct. Beverly Johnson, in a piece referencing fellow model Janice Dickinson’s accusation, has published an article in Vanity Fair accusing Bill Cosby of drugging her in his home in the eighties, after luring her there with promises of a shot at being on The Cosby Show.

Johnson’s story eerily invokes some of the same details that popped up in other accusations against Cosby, from the promise of getting a career boost, to the getting something slipped in her drink to, oddly, Cosby’s request, which Barbara Bowman also recounted, that Johnson pretend to be drunk. Johnson, however, says she escaped without being sexually abused, in part because she realized immediately what was happening and started hollering accusations of “motherfucker” loudly at Cosby until he hustled her out of his home in embarrassment.

The consensus on Twitter that is quickly forming is that Johnson’s testimony raises the level of public certainty to about as high as it’s going to go:

Why does Johnson’s word carry more authority than that of the previous accusers? Part of it is that she’s legitimately famous, with a face that’s immediately recognizable to most Americans over age 30. We feel like we know famous people, and, right or wrong, that gives them a certain authority that anonymous people lack. But then again, Janice Dickinson is famous, too. Johnson, however, has a certain grace to her reputation; Dickinson, who just feels a bit more like a hustler, lacks it.

Or maybe it’s just as simple as this: Johnson now means that not only has the number of accusers grown well into the double digits, but we now have two entire people who are famous on their own terms and doing well—people who could be ruined if the Hollywood machine decided to eject them—and they are speaking out. It might be possible that one such person is a crazy liar, but two? Nope, it’s implausible in the extreme.

Johnson’s piece is remarkable not just because it’s her, but because she lays bare how hard it is for her to speak out about this. She worried about “the current attack on African American men” and how speaking out about the behavior of a black man who had crossed racial boundaries going back to the sixties could be hurtful. But eventually she concludes Cosby “brought this on himself when he decided he had the right to have his way with who knows how many women over the last four decades.”

“I couldn’t sit back and watch the other women be vilified and shamed for something I knew was true,” Johnson writes. Johnson has a long film and modeling career and recently even had her own reality TV show. She isn’t even accusing Cosby of sexually assaulting her, though she clearly feels that was his intention. She quite obviously has nothing to gain by speaking out. And, in this, she makes the accusations against Cosby hard to deny for even the most ardent rape denialist.

Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist who writes frequently about liberal politics, the religious right and reproductive health care. She’s a prolific Twitter villian who can be followed @amandamarcotte.

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