The media is turning what should be a story about Bill Cosby being called out for rape into a story about a “rude” heckler who “interrupted” the comedian. And it’s not just the usual suspects like Fox News. In a post on Gawker called “Heckler to Cosby: ‘Tell the One About How to Get Away With Rape’,” Jay Hathaway writes:
At his Baltimore show Friday night, it took just 15 minutes before a protester shouted at Cosby about his many, many alleged crimes, the Baltimore City Paper reported. They posted a video of the encounter, showing a guy later identified as Michael Crook hollering “38 women called you a rapist!” and “Tell the one about how to get away with rape.”
See what Hathaway does? He tells us what happens and uses a headline which focuses on what was said to Cosby. Similarly, Ethan Sacks wrote this headline in his article for The Daily News: “Bill Cosby heckled at Baltimore show after more rape accusers come forward.” This headline puts the heckling in the context of even more accusations against Cosby.
What neither Sachs nor Hathaway does is vilify the audience member who is angry that Cosby is selling out shows despite having been accused of rape and sexual assault by 38 women. Both headlines emphasize what the heckler is doing to Cosby, or what is being done to Cosby. They do not emphasize Cosby’s response. Because that’s not what the story is about.
You can watch the video of what happened here.
And yet, not all media outlets are taking that perspective. For many, the story is about Bill Cosby’s words and actions, not about the words and actions of the heckler. Let’s review the different ways Cosby is being portrayed.
Bill Cosby responds when he is interrupted by a really rude guy! Who’s the real victim?
The Grio writes “Bill Cosby responds to concert heckler who shouts ’38 women called you a rapist.” At least it includes the allegation. But the subtitle of the piece reads, “Comedian Bill Cosby was rudely interrupted by a heckler during his Baltimore concert Friday night.” I’m not sure the issue here is rudeness and decorum.
Bill Cosby, the Upworthy Hero
Then there’s this Upworthy-like headline from The Independent which reads, “This is how Bill Cosby responded when a heckler brought up rape allegations.” The only thing that’s missing is an, “And you won’t believe it!” tagged on to the end of the header.
Bill Cosby: Defiant and unstoppable!
Bill Cosby: Fired up and firing back and also kinda the peace-maker at the same time!
The Wrap headline reads: “Bill Cosby Fires Back at Heckler who shouts ‘tell the one about how to get away with rape’.” The subtitle says, “TV legend tries to calm tensions at the Baltimore show by telling fans ‘We are here to enjoy my gift’.”
Bill Cosby: Let the man speak! Before we kick him out!
Let these headlines be an example of how not to cover a story.