National News

Cosby’s Publicist, Seeking to Discredit Accusers, Invokes Emmett Till

Posted April 27, 2018 9:11 p.m. EDT

Bill Cosby’s publicist on Friday compared his sexual assault conviction to the plight of Emmett Till, the black teenager who was lynched and disfigured in Mississippi in 1955 after he was wrongfully accused of flirting with a white woman.

Cosby was convicted Thursday of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman, Andrea Constand, at his home 14 years ago. More than 50 other women have accused him of sexual abuse.

Till, by contrast, was 14 years old in 1955, when a white woman accused him of flirting and whistling at her. Four days later, a group of white men forced their way into the home where he was staying and abducted him. He was beaten, shot in the head and thrown into a river. His body was found three days later, mutilated so badly it could be identified only by the ring he was wearing.

His accuser, Carolyn Bryant Donham, later told a historian that Till had not been menacing or sexually crude toward her.

On Friday, during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” one of Cosby’s publicists invoked Till when asked whether the dozens of women who have accused Cosby of sexual abuse were lying.

“Since when are all people honest?” the publicist, Ebonee Benson, said. “And since when are all women honest? We can take a look at Emmett Till, for example. Since when are all people honest?”

Cosby’s other publicist, Andrew Wyatt, added that “this became a public lynching.”

Till’s literal lynching was one of the most significant catalysts in the civil rights movement and has long been taught in history classes. The Rev. Jesse Jackson has said it was the movement’s “big bang.”

The men arrested and charged in Till’s killing, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, were acquitted by an all-white jury. The Justice Department reopened an investigation in 2004, but a grand jury decided not to indict Donham, or anyone else, as an accomplice.

Constand, whose sexual assault complaint led to Cosby’s conviction, broke her silence Friday, thanking the local community.

“Truth prevails,” she said.

Heidi Thomas, another accuser who testified against Cosby, said the comparison to Till “doesn’t deserve a response.”

“It is inappropriate and unacceptable to put those two issues in the same paragraph,” she said.