A decade before being charged with sexual assault, Bill Cosby gave a speech that appeared to blame black people for getting shot by police and for their high incarceration rates.
The so-called pound cake speech delivered to the NAACP in 2004 may, in fact, have helped lead to his downfall.
In the lengthy and meandering speech, Cosby railed against black women for supposedly “having children by five, six different men” and bemoaned the existence of black men with “pants down around the crack.”
The “pound cake” reference came when he suggested blacks were responsible for getting shot by police.
“These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake!” Cosby said, according to a transcript released at the time by his PR team. “Then we all run out and are outraged, ‘The cops shouldn’t have shot him.’ What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?”
Days after Cosby’s speech, the academic Michael Eric Dyson denounced it in The New York Times as betraying “classist, elitist viewpoints that are rooted in generational warfare.” As Dyson noted in a book about Cosby, the remarks at the NAACP were just the beginning of Cosby’s comments about poor, black Americans.
“Not content with a one-off tirade,” Dyson wrote, “Cosby since then has bitterly and visibly crusaded against the declining morality and bad behaviour of poor blacks.”
Cosby’s crusade may have backfired. Last year, another comedian, Hannibal Buress, mentioned previously little-discussed rape allegations in a set that suggested Cosby was a hypocrite for telling African-Americans how to behave.
“Pull your pants up, black people! I was on TV in the ’80s. I can talk down to you ’cause I had a successful sitcom,” Buress said, sarcastically. He continued, imitating Cosby, “‘I don’t curse on stage.”
“Well, yeah, you’re a rapist,” Buress said to the audience.
The taped set went viral, spurring more women to come forward and claim Cosby had drugged and raped them. The renewed attention ultimately led The Associated Press to compel the release of a court deposition from 2005 in which Cosby admitted to obtaining sedatives for sex.
On Wednesday, Cosby was charged with aggravated indecent assault, a first-degree felony, in connection with allegations made by a former Temple University employee.