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Sorry Camille Cosby but Bill Cosby was not Lynched

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

BlackManLynchedNAACPCamille Cosby broke her silence today following her husband’s conviction when she wrote a scathing attack on the justice system comparing Bill Cosby’s, conviction to a “lynching”, “mob justice” or to Emmett Till.  Cosby who was tried and convicted on three counts of sexual assaults on Andrea Constand, after a first jury failed to reach a verdict.  Mrs. Cosby’s misunderstanding of the words “lynching” and “mob justice” deserves a teaching moment for her and perhaps many others who might be confused.


The National Memorial for Peace and Justice opened on April 26, 2018 in downtown Montgomery, Alabama and is dedicated to the legacy of enslaved Blacks who lost their lives through lynching.  It depicted the over 4000 known lynchings that were held in this country of mostly African Americans from post slavery to 1950.  And when it opened, some questioned why a memorial on lynching was necessary. Comments like Camille Cosby’s show there is a need for the public to be aware of the atrocities of lynching.

First, Mr. Cosby got not only one trial but two fair trials.  The first jury deliberated over 56 hours before a mistrial was declared.  Those who were lynched in this country were neither given a trial, jury or judge to determine their fate. Instead an angry mob of white individuals hung them up to die on a tree, usually first torturing them.  Throngs of white persons, including law enforcement and children watched as the lynchings took place.  Persons were lynched for any perceived slight to a white man or woman.

The Equal Justice Initiative researched many of the lynchings that occurred post slavery in 1877 until the 1950’s. Some of those lynchings were as a result of multiple single incident lynchings—where lynching one Black person was not enough. Counties in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina had the highest single but mass incidents of lynchings. Some lynchings were observed by mob crowds over 2,0000 persons attending such as ones held on the eastern shore of Maryland in 1933.  There were never any convictions or arrests.

As far as Camille Cosby’s comparison to her husband’s conviction to lynching, she and others should be mindful that many lynchings occurred on the court house lawn.  I see no resemblance there to Cosby’s trial. While Cosby was convicted of sexual transgressions over a white woman before a jury of both Blacks and whites, victims of lynchings never received a trial. Persons like General Lee in 1904 was lynched for merely knocking on the door of a white woman. In 1889, Keith Bowen was lynched by an entire white neighborhood for trying to enter a room with three white women. In 1916, Jeff Brown was lynched in Mississippi  for accidently bumping into a white woman as he ran to catch a bus.

If Bill Cosby were Emmett Till, at the first mention of a sexual assault on a white woman, he would have been lynched.  Till, 12 years old, was lynched for either looking, whistling or doing nothing at all to a white woman.  If Cosby had been comparable to Till, at the first instance of an account by a white victim, he would have been lynched.

I hate to hear when persons compare themselves or their situation to a lynching. Clarence Thomas did it at his Senate confirmation hearings when he referred to himself as being involved in a “high tech lynching”.  To make a modern day court room trial comparison or Senate confirmation hearing akin to a lynching does enormous dishonor to those  persons who lost their lives as a result of real mob justice and real lynchings. .

The reason for the Peace and Justice memorial on lynching is to honor those whose lives were taken away in brutal lynchings.  And it is also to bring awareness to what lynching and mob justice did to Black Americans. For those who cannot travel to Alabama to see the memorial, a trip to the website of the Equal Justice Initiative for its report on lynching in America will also bring awareness to our country’s ugly past.  Perhaps when Camille Cosby gets some free time on her hands away from her husband, she might want to travel or read to see what a real lynching looked like.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is an attorney and legal/political commentator.

The Problem with the WHCD was the White House Correspondents

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

There has been a flood of comments ever since last Saturday over comedian Michelle Wolf’s roast monologue at the White House Correspondents dinner (“WHCD)’. Wolfe was an equal opportunity comedian who mocked everyone from Congress, Roy Moore, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Hucklebee Sanders, journalists, Michael Cohen, Reince Priebus and the Russian collusion. Margaret Talev, President of the White House Correspondents Association wrote in a letter that Wolf’s performance was not in the spirit of the dinner. She personally invited Wolf to the dinner. And therefore, she should have been aware of the comedic style. Imagine if I invited Donald Trump to speak at my Black family reunion with a few Hispanic, Haitian and Muslim friends. Why would I expect Trump to refrain from insulting everyone?

The whole point of the comedic performer at the WHCD is for the comedian to roast the President and the White House. One problem was that Donald Trump failed to attend last year and this year. The dinner is usually attended by the president except for the last two years. And in years past, the president gets to also address and roast the dinner attendees- followed by a comedian. This year, Trump sent Sarah Sanders. The absence of the president again presented a challenge for the dinner format.

There appeared to be outrage among some journalists about Wolf’s jokes about Sarah Hucklebee Sanders. Andrea Mitchell wanted Wolf to apologize to Sanders. Press secretary Sanders lies on an almost daily basis to the same White House correspondents attending the dinner. The indignation towards Wolf among some journalists about jokes made about Sarah Sanders shows that one of Wolf’s jokes missed the point. Wolf joked that Sanders was a disappointment for other white women—saying what’s a name for a white woman that disappoints other white women—Ann Coulter. A few white women journalists who came to Sanders’ defense missed the whole point of that joke. No matter how much Sanders lies to their face (and she does lie a lot) some white women still will come to her defense.

After seeing the criticisms directed at Michelle Wolf by members of the media, I came to several conclusions. The same journalists who attended the dinner support free speech –except if it is a comedy roast at their annual dinner. Then free speech and truth are off limits. Margaret Talev as president of the White House Correspondents Association failed to do her job. If Talev invited Wolf, she should have also fact checked her previous comedy routines – to understand what she was getting. It’s called buyer beware. And since this was year two that a president failed to attend the dinner, then maybe—just maybe a different format might have been considered in lieu of a one -sided monologue roast.

In the end despite the criticism, Michelle Wolf’s performance was the most watched on C-Span in the history of the White Correspondents Dinner—in just three days. She was the real winner. And the White House correspondents were the real losers. Michelle Wolf said she wouldn’t change a single word. And why should she?

Watch Michelle Wolf’s performance here:

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is an attorney and legal/political commentator.