UPDATED with PBS statement: PBS just issued this statement: “PBS, WETA, and the program producers are in the process of turning last night’s The Mark Twain Prize live event into a broadcast show. Our intention is to include Mr. Murphy’s acceptance speech in its entirety. In order to comply with FCC regulations regarding profanity, audio bleeps will be used as necessary.
PREVIOUS, 11:52 AM: PBS is faced with a dilemma: to cut, edit or include in its entirety Eddie Murphy’s comment about Bill Cosby, made while accepting his Mark Twain Prize for comedy last night. PBS is scheduled to air the award ceremony on November 23.
In April, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced it would give Murphy this year’s Mark Twain prize. At that time, Kennedy Center chief Deborah F. Rutter said Murphy was being honored for being “a fearless observer of society, who startled many while delighting and informing many more with his uncompromising perspective on social injustice and personal folly.”
Which Murphy demonstrated perfectly last night in accepting his award on stage at the Kennedy Center:
“Bill has one of these. Did you all make Bill give his back? I know there was a big outcry from people trying to get Bill to give his trophies back. You know you’re [expletive ]when people want you to give your trophies back,” Murphy quipped as the Kennedy Center crowd is seen guffawing. Added Murphy: “He should do one show where he comes out and talks crazy: “I would like to talk to some of the people who feel that I should give back my [expletive] trophies!”
The answer to that one, of course, is currently “No,” after the organization honored Bill Cosby with the award in 2009.
We’ve contacted PBS to ask if they plan to edit out that portion of Murphy’s acceptance speech. The very long ceremony typically is edited for time, and sometimes for randy on-stage comments. But this edit would come back to haunt PBS given the subject, and the fact that a video of Murphy’s acceptance speech already is out. Also, Murphy’s Cosby comments are headlining today’s TV news cycle.
Earlier this month, Cosby’s sworn deposition lasted for seven hours in the civil suit brought by a woman who claims the entertainer sexually abused her when she was 15, according to Gloria Allred who is representing Judy Huth. It was the first time in about a decade Cosby had been compelled to answer questions under oath about allegations he sexually assaulted a woman. In this instance it’s a woman who alleges he attacked her in 1974 at the Playboy Mansion, when she was a minor. Same day, a Massachusetts federal court nixed Cosby’s bid to get dismissed a libel lawsuit being brought against him by three other women, who also claim Cosby assaulted them, but who can’t sue him owing to statute of limitations. Tamara Green, Therese Serignese and Linda Traitz allege that “during the 1970’s [Cosby] met each Plaintiff and subsequently assaulted her.” They claim their reputations were damaged when Cosby representatives told news organizations their allegations are “fabricated.”
The Kennedy Center’s not the only organization hoping press forgets it honored Cosby even while women were alleging he’d drugged and assaulted them, though the number of women coming forward with charges against the entertainer has snowballed of late and now numbers more than 50.
In July, President Obama did not wait for that WhiteHouse.gov petition to hit 100K signatures to weigh in on Bill Cosby’s Presidential Medal of Freedom. Obama let people know he would not take back the medal because there is no precedent or mechanism for doing so. Then he tried to mitigate that news, with a strong statement on rape. Note to PBS and Kennedy Center: that baby splitting did not play well in the media.
“I’ll say this. If you give a woman — or a man, for that matter — without his or her knowledge a drug, and then have sex with that person without consent, that’s rape. And I think this country, any civilized country, should have no tolerance for rape,” Obama said, when asked about revoking Cosby’s medal during a White House news conference that was supposed to be about the new Iran deal.
At that time, the latest Cosby headline was the revelation that, in a 2005 legal deposition Cosby acknowledged he’d obtained prescriptions for Quaaludes to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex. Cosby has denied all of the allegations made by the women, and has not been charged in any of the allegations which, in many cases, were made after the statute of limitations had expired.
Cosby was awarded the country’s highest civilian honor, in 2002, by President George W. Bush. A petition was launched earlier this month asking Obama to revoke Cosby’s Medal of Freedom. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. was among the politicians who supported the online petition asking Obama to revoke Cosby’s Medal of Freedom, which the White House was compelled to respond to if it hit 100K signatures.
Also in July, Cosby was cut from an upcoming documentary about black stuntmen. The film, Painted Down, explores the age-old practice of applying blackface to white stuntmen so they can double for black actors. The Black Stuntmen’s Association also removed a tribute to Cosby from its website.