Bill Cosby defended his silence on rape and sexual assault allegations in a backstage interview before his standup comedy performance in Florida (video highlights below) which saw him receive a standing ovation and no heckling. Until now, the embattled comedy icon has spoken solely through statement issued by his attorney, Martin Singer.

Bill Cosby

Photo: Bill Cosby
Credit: PR Photos

The 77-year-old Bill Cosby has been in the midst of an ever-growing firestorm as more and more women come forward claiming to have been sexually assaulted or raped. The allegations date back as far as almost fifty years through the 1990s.

The accusatory standup routine of Hannibal Buress, calling the fellow comedian a “rapist” went viral, and the public and the media reexamined the old allegations even as many more women have come forward.

Now, just as he was to take the stage at the King Center in Melbourne, Florida for a standup comedy performance (video highlights below) he broke his silence. In a print interview with Florida Today, he broached the topic by saying, “”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.”

On two separate occasions — an interview with Scott Simon of NPR and Brett Zongker of the AP — Cosby ironically drew even more attention to himself by the manner in which he declined to respond. The interviews, alongside his wife Camille Cosby, which were focused on the couple’s donation of African art to the Smithsonian Institute’s new exhibit have become a flashpoint.

This time around Cosby did not appear on camera, but nonetheless, the interview is receiving massive attention and being examined and reexamined for what is revealed and what is not. Cosby also made note of radio stations offering money and prizes if people would heckle. He noted the stations were encouraging a “frat house mentality” and said, “Now suppose someone brings a weapon or decided to do more foolishness.”

He continued in that vein, telling Florida Today, “When you go to a civil rights march or something like that, at least there are meetings and some organization to it and people understand how to behave. There may be people coming to the show that don’t know exactly what to do; there is no organization to it all.”

Regardless of one’s opinion on the allegations made against him or one’s opinion of the man himself, Cosby does make a good point. While he is being tried in the proverbial court of public opinion, not everyone is satisfied with just having an opinion. In this era of celebrity stalking and death threats, public figures far less controversial than he have faced perils.

Thus far Bill Cosby has been spared heckling while on stage. His show in Florida was well received, with the audience giving him a standing ovation. He has, however, faced cancellation of shows; thus far in Las Vegas and in Arizona. That along with losing the Netflix Thanksgiving special and his new series on NBC, to say nothing of TV Land dropping reruns of ‘The Cosby Show,’ heckling is the least of it, as the story continues to play out with real-world consequences as numerous women come forward with allegations.

Highlights from Bill Cosby’s performance in Florida are in the videos below.