Bill Cosby's cautious effort at image rehab in advance of his trial on sexual-assault charges took another step Tuesday in a Sirius radio interview in which he implied racism and revenge might be behind the dozens of rape accusations made against him over more than two years.
In a 30-minute phone interview on The Michael Smerconish Program that aired on SiriusXM, Cosby answered one question with a direct answer: Will he testify in his defense at his trial?
"No," Cosby replies.
Cosby said his decision was intended to make his attorneys' jobs easier: "I just don’t want to sit there and have to figure out what I believe is a truthful answer as to whether or not I’m opening a can of something that my lawyers are scrambling," he explained.
Smerconish also asked Cosby to respond to a clip of his daughter, Ensa Cosby, saying that she believes “racism has played in big role in all aspects of this scandal.”
Otherwise, Bill Cosby was characteristically indirect, but he told Smerconish his daughter might be right.
"Could be. Um, I can’t say anything, but there are certain things that I look at, and I apply to the situation, and … there are so many tentacles. So many different — nefarious is a great word. And I just truly believe that some of it may very well be that."
When Smerconish pointed out that the five-dozen accusers (who claim he drugged and/or sexually assaulted them in episodes dating back to the mid-1960s) include white and black women, Cosby implied revenge might also be a motivation.
"I think that you can examine individuals and situations and they will come out differently," he said. "So it’s not all, it’s not every (accuser), but I do think that there’s some."
But Cosby was careful not to claim that all of his accusers are lying about him. Smerconish asked him what he thinks of those people who believe the accusations because of the number of women who have given similar stories.
"The piling on, so to speak is a way — and certainly, an impressive, impressive way to get public opinion to come to the other side," Cosby replied.
"Are you telling me that they’re all lying?" Smerconish asked.
"You know better than that."
In a Facebook video, Smerconish explained that he had been approached by Cosby's PR team and asked to air audio of statements of support from Cosby daughters Ensa and Erinn, as well as a long conversation between Cosby and Erinn about his life before the scandal. The radio host said he would only agree if he could also interview Cosby.
Cosby's trial on three charges of aggravated sexual assault is scheduled to begin June 5 in suburban Montgomery County, outside Philadelphia. Jury selection begins May 22 in Pittsburgh (the jury will be transported to and sequestered in Montgomery County). He is charged with drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, a Temple University employee, at his home nearby in 2004. Cosby says the encounter was consensual.
The Constand case is the only criminal case brought against Cosby since the first flood of accusers began to emerge in October 2014. Since the charges were filed in December 2015, Cosby has declined to do media interviews and has said little on social media. On Tuesday, he tweeted love to his wife and four daughters, and invoked the spirit of his murdered son, Ennis.
I love you Camille, Erika, Erinn, Ensa & Evin - keep fighting in Spirit Ennis— Bill Cosby (@BillCosby) May 15, 2017
Andrew Wyatt, a spokesman for Cosby and his legal team, declined to comment on whether Cosby plans to do more interviews as the trial approaches, and whether this is part of a strategy.
"This is a civil rights/grassroots campaign and that's all that I'm going to say," Wyatt said in an email to USA TODAY.
Last month, Cosby told the National Newspaper Publishers Association news service in an email interview that he hopes to resume his entertainment career after the trial.
"I think about walking out on stage somewhere in the United States of America and sitting down in a chair and giving the performance that will be the beginning of the next chapter of my career," Cosby said in what Wyatt described as email exchange that began several months ago. "I miss it all and I hope that day will come. I have some routines and storytelling that I am working on."