Bill Cosby: 5 Possible 'Warning Signs' We All May Have Missed

Were these events signs that something sinister lurked behind Bill Cosby’s once beloved persona as 'America’s dad?'

Bill Cosby leaving the Montgomery County Courthouse on February 27, 2017 in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Photo by: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

By: Mike McPadden

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According to 59 accusers on the record to date, Bill Cosby is alleged to have drugged and sexually assaulted women for decades.

At present, the comedy legend is on trial in Pittsburgh for one such alleged incident. Cosby faces three felony counts of aggravated indecent felony sexual assault. He could face up to 30 years behind bars.

The entire world is watching what happens from here.

Andrea Constand, a former Temple University athletics director, claims that in 2004 Cosby gave her wine and three pills that rendered her “unable to speak or move for about 30 minutes.” Once the drugs took effect, Constand says, “He sexually violated me without me consenting.”

In recent years, a multitude of women have described Cosby using similar methods to violate them. Constand’s case is just the first one to make it to trial.

Due to the personal connection millions of former admirers felt to Bill Cosby, many people are now wondering how, if he’s found guilty, the world could have let him get away with such crimes for so long. Looking back, certain occurrences may or may not have served as tip-offs that perhaps something very specifically sinister lurked behind Cosby’s once beloved persona as “America’s dad.”

What follows are five theoretical “red flags” that prove nothing conclusive, but still might raise some uncomfortable questions.


While Cosby’s comedy career is overwhelmingly dominated by “family friendly” material, his 1969 LP It’s True! It’s True! is a rare departure into more off-color topics.

During this period, Cosby was a fixture inside the famously libertine confines of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion.

It’s True! It’s True! comes across as being of a piece with that time and place, particularly on a track called “Spanish Fly.” The routine focuses on a mythical aphrodisiac called “Spanish fly” with which Cosby and his friends were obsessed at age 13.

Cosby jokes about how putting the chemical in a girl’s drink would turn her sexually voracious and enable whoever drugged her to use her for his own sexual pleasure. At one point, Cosby says:

“Go to a party, see five girls standing alone. ‘Boy, if I had a whole jug of Spanish fly, I’d light that corner up over there!’”

In hindsight, that punchline could possibly be taken as a warning signal, and the album title It’s True! It’s True might sound, to some, like some sort of confession. [Time]


More than 20 years after It’s True! It’s True!, Bill Cosby appeared on the CNN interview program Larry King Live, still talking about his fixation on “Spanish fly.”

Cosby appeared with King to promote his then current book, Childhood, in which he wrote that Spanish fly was supposedly “so potent it could have made Lena Horne surrender to Fat Albert.”

The on-air conversation between Cosby and King contains the following exchange:

COSBY: Spanish Fly was the thing that all boys from age 11 on up to death — We will still be searching for Spanish Fly.

KING: [laughs] That’s right.

COSBY: And what was the old- The old story was, if you took a little drop — It was on the head of a pin! And you put it in a drink...

KING: And she’s yours.

COSBY: ‘Hello, America!’ And there’s a story in there about Spanish Fly. So I think that everybody — any guy picking it up will just have a ball reading about that.

In March 2017, prosecutors sought to use the book passage and the Larry King Live discussion as trial evidence against Cosby.

Along with his motion, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele stated:

“These prior bad acts are relevant and do not unfairly prejudice defendant because they tend to establish that he had access to, knowledge of, and a motive and intent to knowingly use substances that would render a female unconscious for the purpose of engaging in sex acts.”

That Spanish fly may very well sting Bill Cosby at last. [New York Times]


According to Erinn Cosby, Bill’s daughter, heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson sexually assaulted her in 1989. Erinn then said that after she told her father, he encouraged her not to go to the police, but to instead undergo counseling and that furthermore he would be “using his influence” to convince Tyson to also seek counseling.

Shortly after the alleged Tyson incident, 23-year-old Erinn checked into a treatment center to address drug and alcohol issues. That’s when Cosby told The Los Angeles Times:

"This particular daughter appears to be the only one who is really very selfish… I think that she's a child who has refused to take responsibility for supporting herself. She never finishes anything. She uses her boyfriends… Developmentally, she's still around 11 years old.”

With her character seeming to be vividly painted by her father there, Erinn Cosby did not go public with her Tyson allegations until 1992. Even then, on the talk show Donahue, Erinn said she didn’t believe Tyson ever followed through on the “deal” to submit to counseling.

When asked by host Phil Donahue why she never challenged her father’s “handling” of the situation, Erinn replied:

“Well, because, at that time, you know, with my own emotions and everything, I really felt that he would handle it.”

On a possibly related note, a number of Cosby's accusers say he “gaslighted” them. That means they're claiming Cosby tried to convince them they were "crazy" or incompetent or otherwise wrong in how they perceived what they say was the comedian's abusive behavior. It's an interesting term, isn't it? [Washington Post]


In 1997, 23-year-old Autumn Jackson attempted to extort $40 million from Bill Cosby, threatening that, if he failed to pay her, she would go to the media with credible claims that she was his “illegitimate daughter.” A year later, after the FBI got involved, Jackson went to jail for 26 months.

As the case became public knowledge, so, too, did the fact of Cosby’s sexual involvement during the 1970s with Shawn Thompson Upshaw, Autumn Jackson’s mother. Cosby admitted to having an “extramarital affair” with Upshaw. He also said, over the course of 20 years, he deposited more than $100,000 into a trust fund for Autumn Jackson, in hope that Upshaw would keep their relationship secret.

Cosby is not listed as the father on Autumn Jackson’s birth certificate, but that possibility apparently seemed to long linger over the whole situation.

The Autumn Jackson revelation made the first completely public crack in Cosby’s outspoken portrayal of himself as a thoroughly upstanding family man.

On top of that, following Andrea Constand’s filing of charges against Cosby in 2005, Shawn Upshaw added her voice the comedian’s many other accusers. Upshaw said that after engaging in consensual sex with Cosby, he later drugged and raped her. [Daily Beast]


In March 2000, Lachelle Covington officially filed a complaint against Bill Cosby with the NYPD.

The 20-year-old actress, who had appeared on the CBS sitcom Cosby, alleged that after eating dinner with the superstar in his Manhattan townhouse, Cosby grabbed her hand, put it up under his T-shirt and then forced it down toward his sweatpants.

Immediately afterward, Covington says she left. Two days later, encouraged by her mother, the actress went to the police. Unfortunately, the authorities never followed up with a proper investigation.

Still, looking back, Covington’s courage in coming forward may have served as the first step in exposing what may have been a decades-long succession of sex crimes. Now we just have to wait for Cosby’s jury to make its decision to be sure. [New York Post]

For more on this case, watch Investigation Discovery's Bill Cosby: An American Scandal on ID GO now!

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