ABC, CBS and NBC broke into their programming Thursday afternoon to announce that a jury had found America’s TV Dad guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in a Philadelphia suburb in 2004.
CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel, meanwhile, took a break from their wall-to-wall coverage of Ronny Jackson’s scuttled VA Secretary bid, the confirmation of CIA chief Mike Pompeo as the country’s 60th — and President Donald Trump’s second — Secretary of State and the tribulations of Trump’s personal lawyer Michel Cohen to cover the historic Cosby news.
The 80-year-old Cosby, one of the most popular actors in TV history, faces up to 10 years in prison on each of three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and then sexually assaulting the former employee of Temple University’s women’s basketball team when she visited his home seeking career advice. Cosby was a trustee at Temple, his alma mater.
“He’s already in his 80s, if he does serve jail time he could serve the rest of his life in jail,” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer marveled of the icon, while contributor Laura Coates mulled whether this jury having been younger made a difference in the outcome, versus last year’s hung jury.
MSNBC’s Katy Tur called it an “incredible day” and the verdict “groundbreaking,” noting this jury also might have been swayed because five other accusers were allowed to testify about their own experience with Cosby, unlike in the previous trial.
Fox News Channel’s Shep Smith told viewers several of Cosby’s accusers began crying in the courtroom when the verdict was ready, one of whom had to be escorted from the room because she was so overcome with emotion, while Constand appeared “serene,” and Cosby stayed nearly emotionless.
That is, Fox News Channel reported, until Cosby shouted, “He doesn’t have a plane, you asshole!” at the DA who suggested Cosby might be a flight risk because he owns a plane.
ABC News broke in with David Muir anchoring and reporting from correspondent Linsey Davis, and analysis from The View co-host and Senior Legal Correspondent Sunny Hostin. Lester Holt anchored an NBC News Special Report on the verdict for that network. And CBS News broke in with Jeff Glor anchoring from New York and Jericka Duncan outside the courthouse.
Broadcasters exited the story relatively quickly compared with the cable news networks that stuck like glue.
On NBC, where Cosby headlined his eponymous 1984-92 hit series that’s credited with reviving the sitcom genre, Holt anchored another NBC News Special Report on the news conference following the guilty verdict, joining the cable news nets as Montgomery County, PA, District Attorney Kevin Steele held his victory-lap presser. As Steele was saying he hopes this verdict “sends a strong message so victims of these types of crimes know they can come forward and be heard,” Fox New Channel split the screen with an overhead view of Cosby’s estate.
“It is hard, really, to wrap your whole head around this man who was America’s dad, with the Jello Pudding Pops and the big smile on his face and the crazy sweaters — so looked up to, so admired,” Smith on FNC said when Steele’s presser wrapped. “We now know he would drug and rape women, convicted of at least one.”
He added, “What you don’t know about people sometimes can be astounding.”