To some, Bill Cosby’s attorney, Monique Pressley, is the real life Olivia Pope meets Annalise Keating. To others, she’s Johnnie Cochran with a vagina. Both of these things are to be admired.
However, to me and to a growing number of other skeptics, she may be some or all of those things, but she comes across as a very calculated attempt by the legendary comedian to place a Black woman as a contrasting face against a group of mainly white women accusing him of sexual assault. Yesterday we learned that one of the cases against Mr. Cosby was dismissed by a Pennsylvania judge, which was a rare win for the funnyman who has been under great public scrutiny over the last year. He essentially has Pressley and the best legal team his money can buy to thank for this momentary relief.
Legal victory aside, there’s a real hard to accept reality that lies beneath the surface of Cosby’s win.
As actress and play auntie in my head, Jackée Harry, recently explained via Twitter: “The deliberate symbolism of Cosby’s defense attorney being a black woman makes my stomach turn. We don’t need to see another black woman standing by a sorry ass black man & shaming other women. We’ve seen that for decades. SMH.”
Indeed, there are other attorneys working on Cosby’s defense team – including one Brian McMonagle, who has defended mobsters, rappers, athletes, and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia during the priest-pedophile scandal. However, as a recent Associated Press report notes, Pressley “could boost Cosby’s battered standing in the Black community.” The AP goes on to describe Pressly as being “plucked from relative obscurity” after she was seen “doing TV commentary on the case when she impressed someone in the Cosby camp last fall.”
To Pressley’s credit, she has proven herself to be quite impressive and my immediate reaction to her most recent string of media appearances is that she’ll likely find her way to a major news network as a regular legal analyst ala celebrity defense lawyer Mark Geragos. Interestingly enough, in this same AP piece, Geragos speaks highly of Pressley, arguing that it’s beneficial to have a “female on the defense team” before ultimately adding “and race is always a subtext in the criminal justice system.”
Meanwhile, McMonagle is expected to lead the defense arguments in the courtroom before a majority white jury. Nonetheless, for Pressley, this is a win-win. According to her site, she is a lawyer, ordained minister, radio show host, and motivational speaker. Pressley can only benefit from the increased media exposure. Already, she is generating articles in the Black press about outshining her celebrity client. Moreover, after discussing the case on The Tom Joyner Show, radio host Tom Joyner said, “You know, Monique Pressley, I’ve never heard of you before, before this, except being on Roland’s show, just listening to you, just now, I think Bill Cosby has chosen a very good attorney because you broke that down.”
It’s a shrewd strategy on Cosby’s part to play racial politics in and outside of the courtroom, but this all but reminds me of how good Cosby is at exploiting his power, wealth, and influence. Cosby is the same person who used his status as “America’s Dad” to admonish poorer Black people nearly a decade ago. While he was scolding our community the beloved Hollywood icon was secretly agreeing to a settlement with the woman at the very center of his current criminal charges in a civil suit, Cosby was making speeches like the infamous “Pound Cake” speech where he all but excuses the tragic deaths Black men and women suffer currently at the hands of law enforcement. It was an embarrassing example of victim blaming.
In 2014, Cosby said that he only expected Black media to “uphold the standards of excellence in journalism” which meant looking at his ever-increasing amount of allegations of sexual assault to with a “neutral mind.”
Now, Pudding Pop is waving money and the promise of stardom to an eager attorney with higher ambitions to go on national television and defend him — not only to other women, but specifically Black people. Cosby is only a race man when it applies to people within the Black community who fit his ideals. If you are not that, he does not love you. Yet, Monique Pressley is here to help curry favor with Blacks folks.
I can’t respect that, so as good as Monique Pressley is in her dual role of lawyer and public relations rep, the difference between her and Olivia Pope or Annalise Keating is that when they’re speaking up for nefarious characters, I have the luxury of relishing in them being fictitious characters.
This is real life and while I can respect the hustle, I can’t relish in watching a Black woman go to bat for a Black man who not only is accused of violating dozens upon dozens of women, but has proven himself to be a pariah when speaking about the most vulnerable members of his community. Bill Cosby is a monster, one way or the other. He’s on his own.