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The entertainment industry reacts to Bill Cosby guilty verdict

Bill Cosby gestures as he leaves the courthouse in Norristown, Pa., after being convicted of drugging and molesting a woman,
(Matt Slocum / AP)

Hollywood reacted swiftly to the shocking news Thursday when Bill Cosby, who was formerly one of the most beloved figures in Hollywood and an African American icon was found guilty by a Pennsylvania jury Thursday of three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand, a basketball official at Temple University who considered him a mentor when the incident occurred in 2004.

Veteran writer and producer Larry Wilmore, a former host of Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show,” who often referenced the claims against Cosby during his broadcast with a pointed (and profane) “I still haven’t forgotten about you!,” took to Twitter to commemorate the verdict: “I haven’t forgotten about the many women you assaulted and silenced with your power. Good riddance!”

Janelle James, a stand-up comic working in New York who has also been seen on Comedy Central, told The Times, “The verdict is an extension of everything else that’s going on, and people are finally realizing that celebrities are human and they do horrible things all the time. So maybe don’t worship them so much.”

She added, “It’s a time people’s [stuff] is getting revealed. Maybe if it came out earlier, when he was still famous, it would have been shocking, but now people know there are monsters everywhere.”

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Darnell Hunt, dean of social sciences at UCLA, said, “This is a really sad end to the story about someone who had this amazing pioneering career that had such a huge cultural impact on the nation. In the 1960s, Cosby’s role on ‘I Spy’ opened America to redeeming African American images on television. ‘The Cosby Show’ in the 1980s saved the sitcom and introduced America to images of middle class African Americans. To have a career like that end in disgrace is really sad.”

Asked about the impact on Cosby’s legacy, Hunt said, “That goes back to the classic debate, whether you can separate the art from the artist. That debate will endure. Networks stopped showing ‘The Cosby Show.’ They made a decision to censor the art because of the artist.”

Hunt said he was saddened but not surprised by the verdict. “Three years ago, I might have been surprised, but in the current cultural moment, I am not surprised. This is an important movement, and it’s spot on. It’s hard to dismiss. The bigger question is the cultural impact and what this will mean gong forward.”

The former stars of “The Cosby Show” declined to comment Thursday.

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With each count carrying a possible 10 year sentence, the verdict — which was reached after an initial 2017 trial for the same charges ended in a hung jury — may result in the 80-year-old comic spending the remainder of his life in prison.

Comic Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton, who wrote the 2008 book “Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy,” said he was surprised by the Cosby verdict. “I thought he would be found not guilty on some counts. But sexual abuse is a very real thing, and the major players are being held accountable. It’s still a shock. He was America’s dad. It’s like telling a kid there’s no Santa Claus.

“Still, I don’t think it will damage his legacy over a period of time. Those movies that he did with Sidney Poitier like ‘Uptown Saturday Night’ will stand the test of time.”

A spokesperson for Bounce TV, the only network still airing reruns of “The Cosby Show,” said the network was pulling the series effective immediately.

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Staff writers Jeffrey Fleishman and Greg Braxton contributed to this story.

See the most-read stories in Entertainment this hour »

chris.barton@latimes.com

Follow me over here @chrisbarton.

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