NBC Cancels Cosby Sitcom Plans Amid Assault Allegations

NBC canceled plans to develop a comedy starring Bill Cosby amid new sexual-assault allegations against the comedian and actor. Netflix Inc. took a similar step earlier with its own Cosby stand-up special.

The NBC project is no longer in development, according to an e-mailed statement today from the network, part of Comcast Corp. It never got as far as a delivered script, said a person with knowledge of the matter who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and sought anonymity. Netflix, the streaming service, said a special scheduled for Nov. 28 won’t air as planned.

Allegations of sexual assault by the 77-year-old Cosby arose after a Washington Post op-ed last week in which Barbara Bowman reiterated past accusations that Cosby raped her when she was a 17-year-old aspiring actress. Joan Tarshis came forward on Nov. 16, writing on the entertainment site Hollywood Elsewhere about an alleged incident in 1969. Another woman, model Janice Dickinson, told Entertainment Tonight she was sexually assaulted by Cosby in 1982.

“At this time we are postponing the launch of the new stand-up comedy special ‘Bill Cosby 77,’” Netflix said in an e-mailed statement. The Los Gatos, California-based company had planned to make the special available the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.

Netflix acted after allegations resurfaced that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted women more than a decade ago. As of Nov. 17, executives at Netflix, the world’s largest subscription streaming service, were still planning to air the special while monitoring the situation.

Canceled Appearances

“My client says that he is in agreement with Netflix,” David Brokaw, a spokesman for Cosby, said in an e-mail. Brokaw didn’t immediately respond to a follow-up request for comment about Dickinson’s allegations.

Cosby, who broke racial barriers with TV’s “I Spy” in the 1960s and “The Cosby Show” in the 1980s, declined to comment when asked about the allegations in an interview with National Public Radio that aired on Nov. 15. He has never been charged with a crime involving the allegations.

He canceled a guest appearance on CBS Corp.’s “Late Show With David Letterman,” and a guest spot on “The Queen Latifah Show” was postponed at the comedian’s request, NBC News reported. Comedian Hannibal Buress last month called Cosby a rapist onstage.

Statement Clarified

“Over the last several weeks, decade-old, discredited allegations against Mr. Cosby have resurfaced,” his lawyer, John P. Schmitt, said in a Nov. 16 statement. “The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true. Mr. Cosby does not intend to dignify these allegations with any comment.”

A new statement was posted Nov. 17 to clarify that the lawyer’s comments didn’t refer to another Cosby accuser, Andrea Constand, whose 2005 civil lawsuit against Cosby was settled.

She claimed to have located at least 10 other alleged victims of sexual assault by Cosby. In a court filing at the time, Constand named one other witness to prior alleged sexual assaults, and nine so-called Jane Does, whose names were confidential.

“The statement released by Mr. Cosby’s attorney over the weekend was not intended to refer in any way to Andrea Constand,” said the joint statement, from Cosby’s and Constand’s lawyers. “As previously reported, differences between Mr. Cosby and Ms. Constand were resolved to the mutual satisfaction of Mr. Cosby and Ms. Constand years ago. Neither Mr. Cosby nor Ms. Constand intends to comment further on the matter.”

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