Ten years ago, it would have been unlikely. Twenty years ago it would have been unthinkable. Today, still, it is shocking or, at least, jarring: “Bill Cosby has been arrested, his bail set at …”
Sure, you might just be nodding your head and thinking, “finally” or “of course”, but admit it, not long ago, it would have seemed absurd to read that headline. But times change, and, as more and more of Cosby’s accusers came forward, “America’s dad” became a national disgrace, the ultimate pariah. Not since the first allegations against Michael Jackson, did the collective American consciousness recoil in such disbelief. Before settling into such universal disgust.
This was Bill Cosby. Role model to … well … everyone. From his weekly TV show to his Saturday morning cartoons Fat Albert and Lil Bill, Cosby was an unmitigated hero to generations of Americans. The ultimate flesh and blood father figure.
That has all been stripped away by horrific allegations of decades of rape, equivocation, and denial. Now an Arizona congressman has introduced legislation meant to revoke Cosby’s Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Rep. Paul Gosar believes that Cosby’s own admissions made under oath related to a sexual assault that happened more than a decade ago. The legislation poses an interesting PR question, moral conundrum, and legal precedent. If allowed, any sitting president could revoke this award in the future.
But, for our purposes, let’s look instead at the public relations ramifications of this issue. Can a series of bad acts wipe out a lifetime of good? Certainly, your evil deeds can overshadow the good you do, but can it expunge it?
It won’t work the other way. Just ask Gosar: “Revoking Bill Cosby’s Medal of Freedom won’t undo his actions or heal the wounds of his victims, but it will signal to the American people that we will not tolerate such lewd behavior.”
No, we don’t tolerate rape, but does the removal of an award send that message, or does it set a dangerous precedent?