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The Cosby controversy: From TV dad to accused sexual predator

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Bill Cosby

(CNN) — Bill Cosby has dominated headlines for much of the last month as accusations of sexual assault pile up.

More than a dozen women have accused Cosby, many of whom say he drugged them first.

Their stories paint a starkly different picture of the man beloved by millions as Dr. Huxtable — the sweet, sweater-wearing father on the sitcom, “The Cosby Show.”

The 77-year-old comedian has denied some of the allegations and refused to discuss others. He has never been prosecuted.

Here’s the latest on the controversy:

What are the allegations against Cosby?

At least 15 women are speaking out to various media outlets accusing Cosby of sexual misconduct.

They include 12 women who either CNN has spoken to or read court documents about, who have spoken on camera about their allegations or whose alleged attacks have been addressed by Cosby’s attorney.

Among the latest accusers is former supermodel Janice Dickinson. She told “Entertainment Tonight” that Cosby assaulted her in 1982 after the two had dinner in Lake Tahoe. She alleges he gave her a pill and a glass of red wine shortly before she passed out.

“The last thing I remember was Bill Cosby in a patchwork robe, dropping his robe and getting on top of me. And I remember a lot of pain,” she said.

Why are we talking about them now?

The stories of Cosby’s purported crimes have been around for about a decade, but they recently got new life when a comedian took aim at him and a social media stunt inviting fans to meme the comic went awry.

In late October, Hannibal Buress bluntly attacked what he perceived as Cosby’s “smuggest old black man public persona” by saying, “Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches. ‘I don’t curse onstage.’ Well, yeah, you’re (a) rapist, so I’ll take you saying lots of m*****f*****s on ‘Bill Cosby: Himself’ if you weren’t a rapist.”

Earlier this month, Cosby — or whoever was in charge of his social media — put out a challenge with a jovial picture of Cosby in a cap: “Go ahead. Meme me! #cosbymeme.”

The Internet immediately reacted.

“Claire, have you seen my … nevermind, found my raping hat!” tweeted Trill Withers over the cap picture.

“My two favorite things (–) Jell-O pudding & rape,” tweeted E.J. Coughlin over a photo of Cosby smiling.

Cosby’s original tweet was quickly pulled from the Web, which led to this conclusion from Jensen Karp: “If anyone is looking for a job, the Social Media Manager position for @BillCosby is about to open up.”

What has Cosby said about the allegations?

He’s been mostly mum.

When an NPR reporter gave him a chance to deny the allegations, Cosby provided an awkward moment of radio silence, refusing to answer the question.

Given the same chance by The Associated Press, he offered no comment. When the interview concluded, he told a reporter that asking him about the allegations was a mark of low integrity and said he’d be appreciative if that portion of the interview was “scuttled.”

Cosby offered an explanation for his silence Friday, when he told Florida Today he wasn’t going to respond to “innuendos,” referring to the women’s accusations.

“I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn’t have to answer to innuendos. People should fact-check. People shouldn’t have to go through that and shouldn’t answer to innuendos,” he told the newspaper in a backstage interview before his sellout performance at the King Center for the Performing Arts in Melbourne, Fla.

His show began to a standing ovation, and he didn’t mention the allegation during his 90-minute act, the newspaper said.

A lawyer for Cosby has called the increasing number of claims of sexual assault against the legendary comedian “ridiculous” and said the media should stop airing “unsubstantiated, fantastical stories.”

Martin D. Singer said in a written statement sent to CNN that it defies common sense that “so many people would have said nothing, done nothing, and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years.”

Cosby has not faced a judge or jury, let alone been convicted, regarding any accusations.

Stories of Cosby’s purported misdeeds have been around for about a decade, but they recently got new life when another comedian took aim at him.

Singer said there are plenty of attorneys who are ready to help victims file lawsuits against rich, powerful men. He blamed the media for the rise in the number of women who recently have alleged Cosby assaulted them or was sexually aggressive.

“Over and over again, we have refuted these new unsubstantiated stories with documentary evidence, only to have a new uncorroborated story crop up out of the woodwork. When will it end?” he asked. “It is long past time for this media vilification of Mr. Cosby to stop.”

The media is violating its own reporting standards by rushing the women’s stories to air or print, he said.

“The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40, or even 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity,” he wrote, adding the claims are “increasingly ridiculous.”

Martin D. Singer said in a written statement sent to CNN that it defies common sense that “so many people would have said nothing, done nothing, and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years.”

What’s been the fallout for him?

The accusations have taken their toll on Cosby’s earnings and reputation.

Netflix postponed a stand-up comedy special. It was filmed before a live audience in July and scheduled to premiere the day after Thanksgiving.

The company did not elaborate, issuing a statement that said only, “At this time we are postponing the launch of the new stand-up comedy special ‘Bill Cosby 77.'”

NBC also decided against moving forward with a Cosby project.

The network said last week that it opted to stop developing the comedy show, which was billed this summer as a “classic, big extended-family sitcom” revolving around Cosby.

“We can confirm that the Cosby project is no longer in development,” NBC said.

Finally, TV Land, one of the networks that have reruns of “The Cosby Show” in their lineups, quietly removed the sitcom from its programming schedule. TV Land also deleted the sitcom page from its website.

The channel did not respond to requests for comment about the disappearance of the show.

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