The Need To Be Believed-What the Cosby Accusers Really Want

The Need To Be
Believed-What the Cosby Accusers Really Want


Leonard Zwelling

         I’ve been a fan of Bill Cosby’s since I, Spy and Noah. I
actually saw him live in Las Vegas at about the same time (1982) that one of
his recent accusers had him drugging and raping her. I cannot successfully
overlap the image of the man I saw on that stage ten feet from me who told me “parents
with only one child were not real parents because they always knew who did it
when something was broken” (we had only Richard then) and the portrait of the
felon being painted by the women who seem to be assembling into a Greek chorus
of condemnation over sexual insults from many decades ago.

         It is most unfortunate for Mr. Cosby that statutes of
limitation are insufficient protection in the age of the internet. He cannot go
on not addressing the accusations. The stories the various women tell are too
similar. The consequences to his attempted late career comeback are too severe.
The damage to his legacy will be inestimable. He needs to choose a talk show
and spend an hour either confessing, as David Letterman did, or credibly
explaining why all of these women are telling the same awful untrue stories
about him. It’s 2014. More than ever, celebrities who screw up must face the

         What is more interesting than the stories is what the
alleged victims really want. All they want is to be believed.

         This one I really get.

         When I showed the initial manuscript of my book, Red
Kool-Aid, Blue Kool-Aid, to a publisher, he said I had to either change all the
names in it, fictionalize it or delete all references to what happened to me at
MD Anderson.

         I asked why?

         “Libelous,” he said.

         But I came back with, “but it’s all true. It’s not libel if
it’s true.”

         “We don’t care,” they said.

         The bottom line is that publishers are so risk averse that
even true tales of misdeeds that aren’t felonies (although some were close)
must be purged from pending manuscripts for fear of a potential lawsuit from
the bad actor. Eventually, I deleted some, but not all, of the details from the
book and we shall see how it holds together and whether someone takes offense
at the truth.

         Like Cosby’s accusers, all I wanted was for someone to hear
me. I didn’t care if anyone did anything. Besides, most of the perpetrators of
the awful behavior have left the MD Anderson scene (but, not all). I, along
with a host of really world-class people, have been driven from Anderson and
some even from Houston by those in the Anderson leadership who could do it,
much as the powerful Mr. Cosby could do alleged awful things to these women.

         My guess is that my story will never be heard. I have come
to terms with that. That doesn’t mean I will stop trying to find ways to convey
truly evil doings and awful medicine, let alone frank violations of human
research regulations at several of the venues at which I worked. As a physician
who believes in patients first, last and always, I can do no less.  It was how I was trained. It was also how I
was brought up.

         Many people will say I am an alarmist. I am over stepping
myself and making a mountain out of a molehill. Really? Ask Mr. Cosby right

         It was only because a male comic brought up the issue that
these women came forward again for some had made the accusations before and
were ignored despite wanting no money in return. These women are not gold
diggers and I am not a muckraker. Well, maybe I am, but if there were no muck,
I would go back in my sand trap and use the rake there.

         It is my contention that medicine and academic medicine in
particular have fallen victim to that lost narrative I wrote about a few days
ago. We have lost our way and we need Lewis and Clark to get us home. The birds
ate the bread crumbs, Hansel, and the moral relativism and groupthink took care
of the rest.

         Docs, we had better clean up our act or we too will go down
like Bill Cosby is accused of being. Dirty old men gumming our Jello pudding while
dreadful behavior goes unanswered by those tapped as our leaders by others without
asking our opinion.

         If Cosby is really innocent, we all need to know, and if he
isn’t, then he needs to apologize. But we long ago told you what men cannot
say: I’m lost, I’m wrong and I’m sorry. That may include the Coz. It sure
includes the Board of Regents. There can be no other explanation for four
horrendous morale surveys leading to—-nothing.

         It is very hard to be a whistleblower and all whistleblowers
do not have equal weight. The women who have accused Mr. Cosby of these
dreadful actions need to have their day in court, even if it is just in the
court of public opinion. Because of the internet, they are getting it now.

         The faculty of MD Anderson has spoken several times since
the coming of the new President more than three years ago. If the leaders in
Austin plan to do nothing, just say so and move along and allow each faculty
member to decide for himself or herself the value of staying in a place that
does not care a hoot what he or she thinks.

         And please, Austin, don’t tell me you do when you ask the
question, ignore the answer, and wonder why the faculty aren’t happy.

         Everyone wants to be heard and once heard made to believe
that someone else actually listens and cares. Right now, Austin is about as credible as
Cosby. Both need to come clean.

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