- Lili Bernardvisual artist and actor who has accused Bill Cosby of drugging and raping her in the early 1990s when he mentored her in preparation for her guest-starring role on The Cosby Show.
Bill Cosby rape survivor Lili Bernard joins us to respond to President Trump’s dismissal of sexual assault allegations against himself and his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh ahead of today’s hearing in which his accuser, Dr. Christine Ford, is set to testify. “Never in my life would I have imagined that the same week in which my serial rapist … is entered into a state penitentiary for years, that the nominated Supreme Court justice would be in a hearing where he has to face questions about sexual assault,” Bernard says. She is a visual artist and actor who has accused Bill Cosby of drugging and raping her in the early 1990s when he mentored her in preparation for her guest-starring role on “The Cosby Show.”
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. In addition to our discussion of what’s taken place now with Judge Kavanaugh, the news that broke this week of Bill Cosby. Let’s just talk about this week and what happened in a Pennsylvania courtroom. This week in Pennsylvania, Bill Cosby is behind bars, after a Pennsylvania judge sentenced him to three to 10 years in prison. In April, a jury found Cosby guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, the former director of operations for the women’s basketball team at Temple University, at Cosby’s home in 2004. Constand is one of more than 60 women who have accused Cosby of sexual assaults dating back decades. Cosby had been out on bail since his conviction last spring. And on Tuesday, the Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill ordered him to be jailed immediately. The judge also upheld a state board’s finding that Cosby is a sexually violent predator, meaning Cosby will have to undergo monthly counseling and register as a sex offender with police for the rest of his life. Neighbors and schools will be notified of his address and crimes.
So, we’re joined right now by Lili Bernard. She was in the courtroom this week when Cosby was sentenced. Now, Lili Bernard is a visual artist. She is an actor. She accused Bill Cosby of drugging and raping her in the early ’90s when he mentored her in preparation for her guest-starring role on The Cosby Show. She was our guest yesterday, where we talked quickly about what had taken place.
This issue of remembering, talk about what happened to you and when you revealed it to people and the effect it had on you, Lili. You were not the reason Bill Cosby was in court.
LILI BERNARD: That’s right. And never in my life would I have imagined that the same week in which my serial rapist, who happens to be a mega-mogul celebrity, is entered into a state penitentiary for years, that a Supreme Court justice, nominated justice—sorry, the nominated Supreme Court justice would be in a hearing where he has to face questions about sexual assault. I never thought that that would happen.
But I was on The Cosby Show. But during the mentoring stages of—in preparation of my guest-starring role on The Cosby Show, Bill Cosby, once he gained my total trust, he drugged me, and he raped me. And it took me years to come forward, to find the strength and the fortitude to come forward, for multiple reasons that I would like to address. And this question which internet trolls, the hired shills, the hired Cosby shills in the courtroom that have been harassing and assaulting us, and, unfortunately, even family members frequently ask me, unthinkingly, insensitively, just shakes me to the core: Why did you wait so long? Why did you wait so long? And there are a plethora of reasons. And I would just like to ramble through them really quickly to school people, to understand.
When Donald Trump said, in some instances people keep quiet, he would have been more accurate had he said in most instances people keep quiet, because government research shows that less than 30 percent of victims of sexual assault ever report a rape. That means most people don’t report a rape. And why don’t they report it? OK, rape is such an intimately invasive violent crime, where you have the sexual organ of a perpetrator piercing the reproductive organ of the victim, or the rectum, and this, of course, can result in life-threatening disease, sexually transmitted disease. It can result in procreation, abortion, shame. And then you have victims often stating that when they go to the police, in the rare occasions that they do go to the police, when one out of—less than one out of three go to the police, you have the police now just badgering the victim with a battery of blaming questions, where the victim feels that she is being re-raped. And that is parallel. That happens again. That is echoed in the courtroom, the three-ring circus of a courtroom, where victims are slut-shamed and blamed and their characters assassinated.
AMY GOODMAN: And in your case, the power imbalance. You had just gone for an open call on the Bill Cosby show, to act in it.
LILI BERNARD: That’s right. That’s right. And that’s a very important point, because patriarchy has empowered itself since at least since 1492 upon that. You know, they have relied upon that silence to sustain patriarchy. And they have relied upon—they have shafted dominant culture into believing rape myths. And rape myths are falsehoods—right?—which people believe as to how a rape victim should act.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what happened at that time? You go for an open call.
LILI BERNARD: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: You meet Bill Cosby.
LILI BERNARD: I go for an open call, and I meet Bill Cosby. And I tell him—I thank him for the opportunity to audition as a stand-in. That’s what it was. But I want to have a principal speaking role in The Cosby Show. He called me very quickly thereafter, and he endeared himself to me. This is another tactic that rape victims—excuse me, that rape perpetrators use. He endeared himself not only to me, but to my extended family, spoke with my father in person, my mother on the phone, my cousins, my brother, and told them how much he loved me as a daughter and how he cared for me as a kid. He used to call me, “You’re one of my kids, Bernard.” So what he did then, very craftfully, weaponized my own family against me, which often perpetrators do, because then they look at you with a side eye and doubt. And how could, you know—
AMY GOODMAN: So, you go onto the Bill Cosby show—
LILI BERNARD: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —after you alleged that he raped you in his house, drugged and raped you.
LILI BERNARD: Yes, I did.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to this moment on TV, Lili Bernard, your guest-starring appearance on the Bill Cosby show in the eighth and final season.
DR. CLIFF HUXTABLE: [played by Bill Cosby] When the contractions reach eight minutes apart, that’s when you call me. Now, what did I just say?
MRS. MINIFIELD: [played by Lili Bernard] Call you every eight minutes.
SECRETARY: Dr. Huxtable, your lab reports are waiting.
DR. CLIFF HUXTABLE: OK, thank you.
MRS. MINIFIELD: Well, I guess I’m off.
DR. CLIFF HUXTABLE: Yes, in more ways than one. … Mrs. Minifield, I told you to call me when the contractions are eight minutes apart.
MRS. MINIFIELD: I know, but they jumped from 10 to four!
DR. CLIFF HUXTABLE: They jumped?
MRS. MINIFIELD: Last time I checked, they were 10 minutes. Now they’re coming every four minutes.
DR. CLIFF HUXTABLE: Good. Now, Mrs. Minifield, listen to me carefully. Is your husband there?
MRS. MINIFIELD: He’s running errands. But I can leave him a note.
AMY GOODMAN: So, there you are, Lili Bernard, about to give birth, supposedly, on The Cosby Show. And you’ve already been raped, you claim, by Bill Cosby. You couldn’t have this tried in a court because of the decades now, the statute of limitations.
LILI BERNARD: Well, actually, because the statute of limitations prevented the prosecutor from even considering to press charges, because the incident, for which I spoke to the Atlantic City Police Department, occurred just a few months outside of the statute of limitations. So all the evidence, the compelling evidence, that I saved, all of my victim testimonies were for not.
AMY GOODMAN: This is astounding, this moment. What was it like for you to be on the set with Bill Cosby?
LILI BERNARD: Right. Well, when you talk about the revictimization that precludes rape victims from speaking out, I feel it viscerally. My heart is racing right now. It’s racing because looking at that is a very difficult thing to do. It reminds me of the deep betrayal. He had mentored me for quite a while before he drugged and raped me. So I had viewed him as a father figure. And that week of work was the most difficult week that I ever endured. He was violently abusive to me. There was a big huge blowout the night before and during the dress rehearsal that production assistants witnessed. And at the end of the taping, when the hundreds of people in the audience were applauding, and I was feeling like I was about to faint because of what had just happened a couple of months prior, you know, where I had come home drugged and sexy assaulted, in this case to my boyfriend at the time, who’s my husband, and we both confronted Bill Cosby together, and he threatened serious consequences to our life. And I’m standing there as the audience is applauding, barely able to sustain myself. My knees were trembling and weak, and I thought I was going to pass out. And he said to me, with a smirk—because, you know, in the courthouse, he laughed so heartily while the victims cried, that you could see his shoulders bounce up and down. And with that same kind of sardonic, unapologetic scorn, he said to me, “Fooled them again.” Fooled them again, as in the audience, because they did not know what I knew, that this phony philanthropy, this moralizing that Dr. Huxtable—it does not—is not Bill Cosby. And I knew that Bill Cosby is nothing but a lying, duplicitous, cowardly serial rapist. I knew that. They didn’t know that. And that’s what he meant by “Fooled them again.”
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And will you be watching today’s hearing with Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey Ford?
LILI BERNARD: Yes! In a few minutes, right? I will be watching, and I will be watching through a different gaze. You know, patriarchy has empowered itself—right?—by disempowering women. So, they have duped society into viewing women through a lens of devaluization, through a lens of—that women lack credibility. And so, I’m going to be looking at it through a different gaze. But, yes, I’m looking forward to just being terribly disappointed at all the rape myths that are going to be flung around. And yeah, I’m going to be watching. It’s just going to be another example of this just duplicity of the means through which patriarchy has continued to empower itself, which is through the disempowerment of women.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you so much for being with us, Lili Bernard, visual artist and actor. She accused Bill Cosby of drugging and raping her in the early ’90s when he mentored her for her guest-starring role on The Cosby Show. And again, we want to thank Jessica Leeds, who accused Donald Trump, before he was president, decades ago, of attacking her on a plane as he sat next to her in first class.