Updated: Feb 9
It has been a couple of years since the American public has heard this story echo across the 24/7 news outlets, or come up in conversation with prominent news anchors like that of Nancy Grace. Like most of the nation, I was tuned into the allegations that had been leveled against a man thought to be America's Dad. Bill Cosby. It would take another comedian, and one determined journalist, nearly a decade after the first accusation was made to call attention back to Cosby. Meet this week's Writer of the Week, Nicole Weisensee Egan. Nicole Weisensee Egan was born in Towanda, Pennsylvania although she, like this blogger, has also lived in North Carolina. Nicole moved to NC from NJ at the end of 8th grade and prior to that, she informed us she moved every two or three years.
Photo of Author Nicole Weisensee Egan
At 53 years old she has made her mark on publications like People Magazine and more recently the Los Angeles Times but did much of her groundbreaking work on the Bill Cosby story while working for the Philadelphia Daily News. She is probably best known for doing narrative non-fiction and her podcast, based on her best-selling book, Chasing Cosby, is proof.
When asked what got her into writing Nicole told the blog, "When I was in 9th grade at Scotland High School in Laurinburg, NC the powers that be consolidated all of our publication--the yearbook, the paper, the literary magazine--under one umbrella and called it Scotland Publication. A friend of mine was applying to be on staff and told me I should too. So I did and Kate Blackburn, our adviser, made me co-editor of The Bagpipe, our school newspaper, my sophomore year in high school. She named me editor my junior year and managing editor of all three publications my senior year. By then, I was completely bitten by the journalism bug. I applied to and was accepted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which has one of the best journalism programs in the country, where I double-majored in journalism and political science while working on The Daily Tar Heel, the school newspaper, and later The Durham Morning Herald, a local paper."
Nicole has a wide range of stories that she has covered over the years, probably her most notable and favorite she admitted as that of "Caption Sully Sullenberger and the crew of Flight 15439 after his extraordinary landing on the Hudson River for our cover story", of People Magazine. Nicole also added that this could have easily been another tragic airplane crash, but thankfully was not due in large part to Caption Sullenberger's skills.
After having read Chasing Cosby and listening to the podcast on Spotify, one wonders how a journalist can become so interested in a single story. Nicole Egan explained it was her editor who first assigned her the Cosby case in January 2005 after the first allegations broke. "I was a true Cosby fan so my first reaction was, 'not the Cos!' as we called him in Philly, but I had to set my personal feelings aside and try to get to the truth of the matter, which is what you're supposed to do as a journalist.”
Nicole said that she "stuck with it for so long because I’d seen how the rest of the media backed off the story in 2005 then jumped on the anti-Cosby bandwagon in 2014 and I knew they just as easily jump back off. And I actually saw that start to happen at the second trial. Plus, Cosby still has a lot of supporters who refuse to believe he is guilty. He has more than 3 million followers on Twitter and hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram and Facebook."
Ultimately it was her goal to make sure that the survivor's voices, and their stories, were heard. "I just want to make sure the stories of the survivors are told truthfully and accurately and that their bravery in coming forward is not forgotten. It takes an extraordinary amount of courage to come forward with allegations against a beloved public icon like Cosby was when this first started. I think it’s easier to believe a Harvey Weinstein or a Jeffrey Epstein is guilty because most people had never heard of either of them before the scandals made the news. With Cosby, people thought they knew him and still cling to that image of him. That, coupled with the public’s inherent distrust of sexual assault claims, is a huge hurdle to overcome while covering a story like this." Surely after all those years of researching, talking, listening, court hearings, and watching Court TV commentary from some of the best and most respected (i.e. Nancy Grace) one suspects that even the journalists themselves learn something interesting from time to time. For Nicole Egan, there were two things.
"The phrase "trading up", i.e. how the media will give up one story in order to get a better one and the inherent distrust of sexual assault allegations we as a society have. I'd never heard of “trading up,” giving up one story to get a better one, before but it's rampant in the national media, particularly on television. While I was digging into this scandal with all I had, I was alone. The rest of the media was either backing off or doing stories that were slanted in his favor. I was attacked by other media for my coverage and the DA at the time threatened to have me arrested for one of my stories while Cosby’s attorneys were threatening to sue my paper." Making matters worse for Nicole, and maybe even other journalists, was Cosby's own celebrity. He had a lot of influence over a variety of people, "he had a host of enablers from his agents at William Morris to law enforcement to Hollywood friends and stars to his employees. In addition," Nicole told the blog, "he had the money to silence his victims, which he unsuccessfully tried to do with Andrea Constand after she went to the police, or simply silence them with threats, which he did with Lili Bernard, one of his accusers." So what, if anything, changed? Two words. Social Media. In the early 2000s, the phrase itself had not yet been invented. Social media changed the way individuals communicated, the way we connect, and the way we promote ourselves, events, and celebrations. Social media is also the way this generation creates a movement. "I believe social media was the game-changer here. When Dan McQuade posted the video of Hannibal Buress' routine calling Cosby a rapist it went viral, which led to more women coming forward and new victims coming forward and it eventually prompted the AP to go to court to try and get portions of Cosby's deposition in Andrea's civil lawsuit against him unsealed. When it was, that prompted the Montgomery County DA to reopen Andrea's case," Nicole explained. Just like that, the public began to watch the social media chain links slowly being connected. When we inquired if there was a question Nicole Egan would like to ask Bill Cosby herself, she stated, "Do you know of any women who died after you drugged them?" This is yet another heartbreaking accusation to ponder. Were there other victims who did not get the chance to have their voices heard? Since her bestseller launched in April 2019, Nicole Egan is focusing on a second book which she is co-authoring with Denise Huskins and Aaron Quinn. "The book is due out in June 2021. It is called Victim F, From Crime Victims to Suspects to Survivors." When we caught up with her Nicole said she was reading The Request by David Bell. In her spare time, this best selling author enjoys time by her pool, at the beach, taking longs walks with her dogs, "happy hour on the deck with my husband, or going to see live music and comics." Her advice for writers seeking to publish was "don't give up. It took me 14 years to get a book about Bill Cosby's case published with a lot of rejections along the way." To hear more about this case, and the people who gave victims not just a voice, but justice, you may follow Nicole W. Egan on social media, listen to the Chasing Cosby Podcast, or find the book Chasing Cosby: The Downfall of America's Dad on Amazon.com. You may also read this exclusive excerpt from the book provided by the author, and tune in to the podcast on Saturday, February 13th at 6 pm EST to hear our interview with the author.
Chasing Cosby: The Downfall of America's Dad
Nicole Weisensee Egan Social Media Links
Twitter: @nweisenseeegan or @cashingcosby
If you’re the victim of sexual assault or know someone who is, you can get help by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
A new Writer of the Week will be featured every Monday. Be sure to also follow The Writing Wall on Twitter @TheWritingWall, or on Instagram @writingsonthewall85 for the latest. You can also listen to the podcast every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month.