Less than 24 hours before comedy legend Bill Cosby was charged with drugging and sexually assaulting a woman 12 years ago, conservative political commentator Ann Coulter commented on Twitter that Cosby should join Hillary Clinton in her 2016 White House bid. Coulter was trying to make a point by comparing the comedian to the Democratic front-runner’s husband, Bill Clinton, who has also been accused of sexually assaulting women.
But while Coulter’s flippant tweet was simply piling on to other Republicans — most notably Donald Trump — who have lashed out at the Clintons for the 42nd president’s previous marital infidelity in recent days, her comments also carried another reminder. When Hillary Clinton was running for the United States Senate in 2000, Cosby endorsed the former first lady, using his power as America’s most beloved TV dad to drive support for her.
As the Washington Post pointed out Wednesday, 2000 was a very different time for Cosby than 2016. While many of the more than 50 sexual assault allegations brought against Cosby over the past year took place decades ago and some of the comedian’s indiscretions had been reported before then, the public was largely unaware of his real-life actions in the early 2000s.
When Hillary Clinton appeared with Cosby on election day in 2000, he was one of several celebrities giving her their support. Sen. Chuck Schumer was also in attendance, along with Doug Flutie, the Buffalo Bills quarterback who had a line of cereal at the time.
“This is another joke we are going to play on Hillary,” Cosby told the crowd, the New York Times reported at the time. “We are going to vote her into office. She wants it, she is going to get it.”
Cosby has endorsed several political candidates over the years. He filmed acampaign ad for Jesse Jackson in 1984 that asked voters to support the candidate even if they didn’t think he could win. The former TV star also backed Al Gore in the 2000 Democratic primary, the Washington Post reported, and endorsed the Democratic challenger to then-New York Gov. George Pataki in 2001.
But now it's assumed Hillary Clinton would want to be as far away from Cosby as possible. Even before he was charged with aggravated indecent assault Wednesday, many prominent celebrities and institutions have ended relationships with the comedian as more and more women have come forward to accuse him of drugging and assaulting them.
Unlike Cosby, Bill Clinton’s most well-known extramarital activities were consensual. Everyone knows about his affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which led to his impeachment. And while the former president has been accused by several women of sexual harassment and sexual assault, none of these claims has been proven, and most have drifted out of the public eye.
Trump has tried to dredge up the 42nd president’s past in recent days as he has lashed out at his Democratic rival. And he’s not the only one. Conservative commentator Mark Steyn joined the fray while filling in for Rush Limbaugh Tuesday, comparing Cosby to Bill Clinton and asking why the former president has not seen the same scrutiny as the comedian.
“I mean that as a serious question incidentally,” Steyn said Tuesday. “Why is Bill Cosby finished? He was the most beloved guy. We keep hearing Bill Clinton is the most beloved guy in America. ‘If Bill Clinton was on the ticket, he’d sweep all 50 states. It would be a landslide. Americans love Bill Clinton.’ They loved Bill Cosby – nice grandfatherly Bill Cosby. But somehow, for some reason – you don’t see ‘The Bill Cosby Show’ on TV anymore. You don’t see it on the rerun channels. He is not appearing anywhere.”
Hillary Clinton’s campaign has maintained it won’t be distracted by Republicans’ attacks. “Though Donald Trump has pushed around nearly all of his fellow Republicans, Hillary Clinton won't be bullied or distracted by attacks he throws at her and former President Clinton,” Clinton campaign spokeswoman Christina Reynolds said in a statement to NBC News this week.
Bill Clinton is scheduled to headline his first solo campaign events next week as he hits the stump to get voters excited for the former secretary of state’s candidacy. While the Clintons are ignoring attacks by Trump and others, they are also likely hoping that Cosby does not stay in the news for too long so that voters can focus on the 42nd president’s charm and not his affairs.