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Women accusing Bill Cosby of assault speak out with similar stories

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    New York magazine overnight published an arresting cover image that has brought renewed attention to the dozens of sexual allegations against Bill Cosby.

    Of the 46 women who have now claimed rape or assault at the comedian’s hands, 35 agreed to be interviewed and photographed. A 36th chair is unoccupied, which sparked a social media firestorm about the assault victims who remain silent. It’s tagged #TheEmptyChair.

    Here is one of the women who did speak to the magazine.

    Joyce Emmons is a former comedy club manager who said she was assaulted by a friend of the comedian’s one night after she asked Cosby for headache medication.

  • JOYCE EMMONS:

    And I don’t remember anything after that, except waking up the next afternoon. I had no clothes on. And his friend was there next to me without clothes on.

    And I said, “What’s — what’s happening?” because I was really out of it. And he said to me, “Did you enjoy yourself?” as if I knew what I was doing.

    And I said, “You pig.” And, of course, I used some other words. I said, “Bill, what did you give me?” I know it was a little white pill. I remember that much.

  • And he said:

    “It’s called a quaalude. I bet you don’t have your headache now.”

    And he laughed, as if it were a joke.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Cosby has denied allegations of rape and assault. We contacted his spokesman again today, who declined to comment on the latest report.

    Noreen Malone is a senior editor at New York magazine who interviewed and wrote many of the stories of the 35 women.

    Thank you for joining us, Noreen Malone.

    How long has this project been in the works?

  • NOREEN MALONE, New York Magazine:

    The project has been under way since December, actually, about six months.

    Our photo director at the magazine had seen all the women coming forward one by one. And she had the vision to see that, if you put them all together in one picture, how powerful that would be.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Did you have trouble having them to agree? Did anyone say no?

  • NOREEN MALONE:

    People did say no at first. One or two women signed on, and then it snowballed. We actually had people four sign on in just the last week.

    I think, for many of these women, they had already decided to come forward. All of these women had already come forward. So they had already made the tough decision to go public. It was just a matter of sharing even more with the public.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Well, not only was there — were there photographs taken, not only did some of them agree to these videos, but a lot of them met each other for the first time. What was that like? Did you get to spend some time at the photo shoot to see how they interacted with one another?

  • NOREEN MALONE:

    I did. I went by the photo shoot in New York.

    And I think, for a lot of them, it was weirdly a joyous occasion. That seems like an odd word to use, but, you know, none of them had met each other in person before, and they were people who this was, you know, a formative thing in their lives, and these were the only people who could share this experience with them.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Had these women been blaming themselves all this time? Is that the way that works?

  • NOREEN MALONE:

    They really had.

    Many of these incidents happened in the ’60s and ’70s and even the ’80s, when date rape wasn’t the same thing. There was literally no word for that at that time. And so these women had this experience that they didn’t even — they couldn’t even make sense of themselves, much less tell people about it and have people listen.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    In fact, if look at the pictures, it’s kind of remarkable how many of them are of a certain age, in their 50s and 60s now. So they all went through this some time ago, allegedly.

    Separate interviews, similar stories, however.

  • NOREEN MALONE:

    Yes. That was a really striking thing.

    You know, we talked to all 35 women separately, and the same themes kept coming up. You know, many of the incidents that they described, the alleged incidents, are quite similar. They involve Cosby contacting an agent and saying, you know, can you put me in touch with someone? Many of these girls were so excited. They were models and actresses trying to make it and they heard that Bill Cosby had taken an interest.

    And then drugging a drink is a real theme, unfortunately, throughout these incidents.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    I want to talk to you about the empty chair.

    It’s the thing that your eye is drawn to after you look at these women lined up and facing the camera. What is the significance of it and — first, what’s the significance of it?

  • NOREEN MALONE:

    Well, I think it’s somewhat open to interpretation.

    But as we were talking to many of these women, almost all of them said, oh, I know of someone else who — she’s not going to come forward, she’s not going to talk, but it happened to her, too.

    And people on social media have really seized on the empty chair as a way of saying, OK, these 35 women are ready to talk about something that happened in their past, but not everyone who has been sexually assaulted or raped is ready for that. And so people were, you know, offering up reasons why women or men might not be ready to come forward and talk about it and hashtagging it #TheEmptyChair.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    In fact, one of the interesting things, I thought, in scrolling through some of the responses was, a lot of it had nothing to do with Bill Cosby at all.

  • NOREEN MALONE:

    Mm-hmm. It really took on a life of its own, which was great to see.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Have you — we have not, but have you gotten any reaction from the Cosby camp on this latest report?

  • NOREEN MALONE:

    I have not. And we reached out before publication to several of his lawyers, and we have not heard back at all.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So, did you anticipate any of this reaction? Did you anticipate that there might be legal pushback? How did you, I guess, vet all of these stories?

  • NOREEN MALONE:

    Well, it was quite a process.

    The magazine has a fact-checking process, but, you know, we don’t — all of the stories are, we say, alleged in this. We check them out to the best of our ability, but, again, at the end of the day, it’s he said/she said. Cosby has not been convicted of any crimes. The statute of limitation is up for all of these incidents. So our focus was really more in letting these women tell their stories.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    In this case, it was he said, she said, she said, she said, and so on.

  • NOREEN MALONE:

    Right.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Noreen Malone of New York magazine, thank you very much.

  • NOREEN MALONE:

    Thank you.

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