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A little over a year after Bill Cosby was imprisoned for drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand, she’s telling her story, in her own words, for a revealing new Los Angeles Times podcast.
Available January 14 on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, Chasing Cosby examines the rise and fall of “America’s Dad.” Host Nicki Egan, an investigative journalist and former People magazine senior writer (Disclosure: Egan and I were colleagues at People), delves into the media’s response to the case and the systemic failures that allowed Cosby’s abuse to fly under the radar for decades. In the six-part series, Egan sits down with 14 of his 60 plus accusers, including Constand, the only woman whose case could be tried in a court of law.
I spoke with Egan about their emotional interview, Constand’s first since Cosby went to prison in September 2018 for three-to-10 years maximum (Cosby lost his appeal in December 2019). Listen to an exclusive audio clip from their interview below.
You were one of the first reporters to write about Andrea Constand’s assault claims against Cosby in 2005, and you’ve been covering the comedian’s downfall ever since. How did you come to be on the Cosby beat?
I started reporting on the Cosby case the first day the scandal broke in Philadelphia on January 20, 2005. I was a crime investigative writer for the Philadelphia Daily News and my boss always put me on the big crime stories. I’d spent the past year and a half digging into a sexual misconduct scandal among the ranks of the Pennsylvania state police. I’d done an exposé on drug-facilitated sexual assaults in Philly a couple of years prior, plus I have a master’s in criminal justice from Temple University. So, I was more than ready to tackle this story.
Were you a Cosby fan growing up?
I didn’t want to believe the news at first. I was a Cosby fan myself and, as I write in my book, [The Cosby Show] got me through some tough times in my teens, but I had to set my personal feelings aside and find out what the truth was. That’s what journalism is supposed to be all about. You should enter every story you cover with an open mind.
Andrea did only one major media interview prior to Chasing Cosby. How did you approach her to participate in the podcast?
I think she’s in a much better place now than she was at the sentencing. She’s started a foundation to help other sexual assault survivors called Hope, Healing and Transformation. I think putting her energies into that has really helped accelerate the healing process for her—knowing she finally got what she wanted 15 years ago when she went to police. Justice. Bill Cosby is behind bars. He can’t hurt anyone else. That was the reason she went to police in the first place. She kept having nightmares that women were being sexually assaulted right in front of her and it was her fault because she hadn’t spoken out. The day she went to police, she’d just woken up sobbing from yet another nightmare so she called her mom, who was on her way to work, and told her what happened.
Those nightmares she describes in the podcast are gut-wrenching.
Andrea was very calm and composed during the interviews, but emotional when it came time to talking about why she went to police in 2005. She told me that the case was either going to take her down or her perpetrator, and that gave me chills.
Andrea’s mother, Gianna, is also featured.
Yes, and I think hearing directly from Andrea and Gianna is something listeners can really look forward to. You’ll also hear from Andrea’s attorneys and the other survivors and jurors. There were no cameras in the courtroom at either trial, so the most people have heard are bits and pieces here and there from the news. You have to hear the totality of the evidence together to truly understand how and why he was convicted.
You sat down with 13 other women who allege abuse. What best practices did you learn for interviewing survivors of sexual assault?
It was very emotional for me, hearing their stories, one after the other, and seeing how what Cosby had done to them had damaged some of them for life—and seeing how devastating it is for them to talk about [it] still. I approach these interviews the same way I do all of my sensitive story subjects. I try to get to know them first, either on the phone or in person. I start the interview with some easy questions about their backgrounds, what they did for a living, then I ask about how they met Cosby. I work up to questions about what Cosby did to them. If it becomes too much for them, I make sure we pause, so they can take some time to collect themselves. I make sure they know we can just stop if it becomes too much for them. I just try to be as respectful and sensitive as I can. The last thing I want to do is re-victimize them.
Chasing Cosby is an expansion of your book of the same name, which was released in April. What new information is in the podcast?
What’s especially surprising, which you’ll hear in the podcast, is how much evidence the DA had against Cosby back in 2005. There were 14 women accusing Cosby back then. The DA also cut short the investigation when his detectives were still in the middle of investigating. I also think listeners will be surprised at how much the media has protected Cosby over the years, no more so than back in 2005, when I was literally the only reporter digging into the scandal, trying to find the truth. The DA threatened to have me arrested for my stories, other media attacked me. Cosby was threatening to sue us, but I refused to back down. And so did my newspaper.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.