TCA Does the Right Thing About Cosby

CosbyIt was the least worst thing that happened to him Tuesday.

But after a discussion of more than a year, the TV Critics Association has voted to rescind the 2002 Career Achievement Award given to Bill Cosby.

It was the first time the TCA ever rescinded an award, and it didn’t come easy. After an online survey of its members, the decisive action was to be forever foreshadowed by something that happened a half hour after the press release was issued, when Cosby was sentenced in a Pennsylvania courtroom to three to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting a woman in 2004. The judge declared the comedian, actor and author a “sexually violent predator.”

When veteran TV critic (and inaugural TCA president) Ed Bark (now of unclebarky.com) first raised the issue in 2017, there was some pushback from those who thought it would open the door to others who didn’t have sparkling personal lives but long careers in television (didn’t Johnny Carson strike a couple of his wives?).

But the membership meeting this summer came after the April conviction of Cosby, 81, of sexual assault.

I was asked to write the argument for rescinding, and came up with this:

Since the idea was first raised to rescind the TCA Lifetime Achievement of Bill Cosby, he has been found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault of a former Temple University employee. She was one of 50 women who came forward with allegations of rape, drugging, sexual assault and misconduct over a 40 year period. Since the conviction, the Kennedy Center has rescinded both its Kennedy Center Honors saying “his actions overshadowed the very career accomplishments” its honor intended to recognize. Twenty five colleges and universities have rescinded honorary degrees, including his alma mater, Temple. So should TCA.

There was hesitation to just vote on the thing in July since all the members weren’t there (on the other hand quorum was waived, and a president and board elections were held). But it was unanimous to set up a vote online, which officials said could be set up in a jiffy. It took a couple of weeks of prodding to get the vote up, and after another couple of weeks of voting it was clear.

“Since the inaugural TCA Award for Lifetime Achievement was presented to Grant Tinker in 1985, this is the first time there has been a groundswell to vacate an honor,” TCA president Daniel Fienberg said in a statement. “It was essential that the entire membership have the opportunity to vote and the results were decisive.”

Because of the timing, though, it didn’t get much notice outside of the trades, not that TCA needed publicity for high-mindedness; it was more important for our own integrity to disassociate, if only on the online listing, an honor for an imprisoned sexually violent predator.

 

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