Since Bill Cosby was sentenced to prison more than 20 days ago, tabloid stories have run the gamut of speculation, innuendo and outright sensationalism.
No, both his publicists and jail officials say, he wasn’t attacked with a chicken patty or a hot dog.
No, he didn’t get pushed or fall down a flight of stairs — there aren’t any stairs to fall down where Cosby is being held — and he hasn’t asked that talk show queen Wendy Williams come visit him.
Most of all, the biggest tabloid story that’s made the rounds is that Camille Cosby, his wife of more than a half-century, had filed for divorce and took the couple’s estimated $400 million fortune and bolted.
In his first non-attorney visit at the new State Correctional Institute Phoenix, not far from his Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, estate, Cosby was surprised to welcome his longtime publicists Andrew Wyatt and Ebonee Benson on Monday.
His wife had arranged the visit and wanted it to be a surprise.
“You know, a person says that they are OK, but you really need to lay eyes on them. At least that’s how I feel,” said Benson, who along with Wyatt spoke of their visit exclusively with NNPA Newswire and radio host Frankie Darcell of WDAS and iHeart Radio in Philadelphia.
The pair said they wanted to share their visit with African Americans and on platforms that would allow their comments to air unfettered.
They said Cosby’s predicament is bigger than the comedian and should count a cautionary tale to all Black Americans about the perils of the criminal justice system.
Wyatt said Cosby got a kick out of hearing about published reports that he was attacked by other inmates with a chicken patty and a hot dog and that he’s mistreated.
“He laughed,” Wyatt said. “The staff has been nothing but professional and none of that stuff has happened.
“He said it’s just that the mainstream media is continuing its efforts to try and stop him from getting the facts out,” Wyatt said. “He said to look at the facts, ‘I shouldn’t be here, but I’m here. But, I will be able to write about it, write music about it. They can put you away, but they can’t take away your memory, your life experience.’”
Sporting a full beard and appearing in great health, Cosby told Wyatt and Benson that his imprisonment has afforded him an opportunity to continue to preach about social justice.
“He has been able to speak with other inmates about their situation and impart advice,” Wyatt said. “Mr. Cosby loves hearing other stories of the inmates whom he calls residents. It’s that psychology part of him that takes them into his laboratory. He tells them, ‘You don’t have to swear or curse, this is what you do.’ He’s doing what he always have on the lecture circuit.
“Mr. Cosby said Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela helped him prepare for this chapter of his life,” Wyatt continued. “He said they told him that if he was going to continue to fight for civil rights, something like this was bound to happen and he’s been prepared for it and he knows he’s in prison not for rape, but for infidelity. He knows he’s innocent and he’s kept his head up.”
Wyatt and Benson said Camille Cosby has continued to direct the legal team on her husband’s behalf.
It was Camille Cosby who ultimately made the call to replace her husband’s former attorneys and she regularly plots strategy.
Cosby, who grew up in the Philadelphia projects, also described his living conditions.
“He said the bed lies on thick steel or concrete and he’s allowed to make phone calls, but he’s still being assessed right now so he’s not in general population,” Wyatt said. “He follows the rules and respects the guards. They’ve given him a cane and, because he’s blind, they have a trustee to help him.”
Like just about all maximum security prisons, the facility is surrounded by razor-blade gates and concrete walls. However, because it’s new, there is a refreshingly nice look to it. Cosby has hot water and the ability to shower.
And he continues to fight for his freedom.
“He says we, his team, is part of what he calls this revolution,” Wyatt said. “When you look at his case, they convicted him with no evidence, no DNA evidence, no forensic evidence and on the word of a woman who isn’t even American.”
Both Wyatt and Benson said Cosby remains confident in his pending appeal.
“He has never been in any legal trouble before so this is brand new for him,” Benson said. “At 81 years old, he’s never had any problems with the law, never any legal issues until this case but he’s positive and talking to people and he’s concerned not about himself but about others who might find themselves in his position.”
Wyatt said his boss has grown a full beard. Asked whether he and Benson felt compelled to want to groom him or encourage him to shave, both Wyatt and Benson said no.
“He’s good. He looks really good,” Benson said.
“He’s sharp and he talked about what his team is doing on the outside and his wife, who has been so supportive,” Wyatt added. “He’s doing great, disregard what you’re reading. We want people to really know that this man is an American citizen and he hasn’t been treated like an American citizen.
“He’s behind bars for infidelity,” Wyatt said. “The reason he says and we say that this is bigger than Bill Cosby is, for other Black people, this could be your son, your father, your family member. They are trying to change the laws. Sexual assault is the only crime you can be convicted of with no evidence and no proof and we’ve seen the justice system and how it works with recent major things happening with [Supreme Court Justice] Brett Kavanaugh, or Harvey Weinstein.
“The judicial system is not the same for people of color,” he said. “This is about civil rights. If people don’t start paying attention, a lot more freedoms are going to be taken away. Remember, just last week a white woman accused a little black boy of sexual assault. Pay attention. Stay woke.”