Bill Cosby: sex offender? Although I have a cynical streak after a few decades of reporting on sex crimes, I still am always resistant to early drum beats of a sex scandal. “Who stands to benefit?” “Is there a pattern of behavior?” “Is there a smoking gun.”

Working backwards, we start with the ironically titled 1969 comedy record, “It’s True! It’s True!” by Bill Cosby. Now that would be just darn silly if it wasn’t for the cringe-making biographical sketch titled “Spanish Fly.”

In this ninth and last comedy record for Warner Brothers, Cosby recalls being a 13-year-old boy and learning from another street kid about the mysterious Spanish fly.

“You know anything about Spanish fly?”
“No, tell me about Spanish fly.”
“Well, there’s this girl called Crazy Mary and you put some (mumble) in her drink and she goes, ‘Uh, (unintelligible freaky noises.)’
“Oh, yeah, that’s groovy. Spanish fly is really groovy,”
“And, any time you see a girl (mumbles), oh yeah, Spanish fly.”
“You see five girls standing alone — okay, if I had a whole jug of Spanish fly I’d light up that whole corner up.”

In the sketch, Cosby fast-forwards to his life as an adult star of I Spy And the
moment he hears the greatest news:

“Bob (Robert Culp) and I are working together on I Spy and Sheldon Leonard comes up to us and says ‘I Spy is going to Spain.’ “

As the audience erupts with laughter, Cosby pauses a beat and proclaims, “A childhood dream come true!”

“I say to Bob, ‘You know what I’m gonna pick up when I get to Spain?’ Bob doesn’t know anything….”
“He says, ‘Spanish fly… There’s a girl in my neighborhood in Berkeley called Crazy Mary…’

And so they plan their trip, sing variations of “Spanish fly, Spanish fly, this is the land of Spanish fly.” They sing in the airport, on the plane, through customs. Finally, in the cab, the driver is excited to meet the two Americans and before they can ask him for Spanish fly, he asks if they have any American fly.

So, is this a smoking gun or an outdated sexist comedy sketch? Is this just a terrible co-inky-dinky that so many accusations from a variety of women match the timeframe and spirit of “Spanish Fly.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Bill Cosby: sex offender? Although I have a cynical streak after a few decades of reporting on sex crimes, I still am always resistant to early drum beats of a sex scandal. “Who stands to benefit?” “Is there a pattern of behavior?” “Is there a smoking gun.”

Working backwards, we start with the ironically titled 1969 comedy record, “It’s True! It’s True!” by Bill Cosby. Now that would be just darn silly if it wasn’t for the cringe-making biographical sketch titled “Spanish Fly.”

In this ninth and last comedy record for Warner Brothers, Cosby recalls being a 13-year-old boy and learning from another street kid about the mysterious Spanish fly.

“You know anything about Spanish fly?”
“No, tell me about Spanish fly.”
“Well, there’s this girl called Crazy Mary and you put some (mumble) in her drink and she goes, ‘Uh, (unintelligible freaky noises.)’
“Oh, yeah, that’s groovy. Spanish fly is really groovy,”
“And, any time you see a girl (mumbles), oh yeah, Spanish fly.”
“You see five girls standing alone — okay, if I had a whole jug of Spanish fly I’d light up that whole corner up.”

In the sketch, Cosby fast-forwards to his life as an adult star of I Spy And the
moment he hears the greatest news:

“Bob (Robert Culp) and I are working together on I Spy and Sheldon Leonard comes up to us and says ‘I Spy is going to Spain.’ “

As the audience erupts with laughter, Cosby pauses a beat and proclaims, “A childhood dream come true!”

“I say to Bob, ‘You know what I’m gonna pick up when I get to Spain?’ Bob doesn’t know anything….”
“He says, ‘Spanish fly… There’s a girl in my neighborhood in Berkeley called Crazy Mary…’

And so they plan their trip, sing variations of “Spanish fly, Spanish fly, this is the land of Spanish fly.” They sing in the airport, on the plane, through customs. Finally, in the cab, the driver is excited to meet the two Americans and before they can ask him for Spanish fly, he asks if they have any American fly.

So, is this a smoking gun or an outdated sexist comedy sketch? Is this just a terrible co-inky-dinky that so many accusations from a variety of women match the timeframe and spirit of “Spanish Fly.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Kim and Khloe Kardashian sit on Piers Morgan's lap for a CNN News promotion

Kim and Khloe Kardashian sit on Piers Morgan’s lap for a CNN News promotion

I remember former CNN president Jon Klein getting mad at me after I was the first to post that Larry King’s replacement would be “PM.” I invited readers to guess and they came up with everyone from Paul McCartney to Peter Marshall. Only Sue Carswell was right in naming Piers Morgan.

It wasn’t a very well-kept secret anyway. It turned out Piers Morgan was out celebrating in London in a big noisy group that included mutual friends. And, well, no one had to hack his phone to hear about the deal Simon Cowell was helping him craft.

Well, here’s my next hint: his replacement should have the initials of JL, and I don’t mean Jerry Lewis.

I hope Jeff Zucker does get as bent out of shape as Jon Klein did, writing to me a terse e-mail, “You’re not helping me here.” I wish I could have.

From the beginning I took special interest in Piers Morgan because, a) we have those mutual friends and acquaintances, b) I thought it was time for Larry King to retire and I was hungry for a fresh voice and c) I am married to a Brit and was curious how this would work.

Yes, American TV viewers had fallen in love with Simon Cowell, the dangerous British bad boy with, secretly, a big heart. But Morgan? He would need a lot of different coaching.

My unique viewpoint comes from my early years with my husband who was born in London, went to Leicester University and became an entertainment lawyer. Soon after, he took top leadership roles at British record labels including Arista, Phonogram and MCA UK.

He reads many papers each day, always has a book or two on hand, keeps his finger on the pulse of not only music, but world politics, fashion, financial crises, sports, history of many world tensions and more. He is a people person and a family man. But when he finally moved to America to launch a new record label for MCA in 1988, there was still a steep cultural learning curve.

Here are some of the simple ways I helped, which could have easily helped Piers Morgan.

First stop was the Kennedy library in Boston. There we watched all the fabulous off-the-cuff verbal sparring between JFK and the White House correspondents, a high watermark for presidential access and candor. Then we watched a JFK documentary followed by one of RFK. Among many reactions, David was devastated to learn the civil rights movement, which he had read about, had happened so recently. It was now much more disturbingly indelible.

We then rented the whole series of Eyes On the Prize and watched the episodes back to back. It was a life-changing immersion, one recommended for every serious foreign journalist or businessman. There are so many nuances in American politics that as we went along over time, I could explain why one politician is forgiven, another is not and more.

For most of my adult life, I have always felt independent of any political party, an observer rather than a joiner. Given that, I was able to explain to my British step-children why no matter what was spoken during the 2008 election, the two rival presidential candidates would most likely take the same action with the same timing in winding down the wars.

I know, Piers Morgan wasn’t doing a Sunday morning show. He just needed to have been steeped in a bit more of the American journey so he could have maybe talked with Oprah about Martin Luther King, Jr. for an interview that would air on the civil rights leader’s birthday.

Maybe someone should have told him his promo pictures shouldn’t have been in front of the make-up mirror.

And someone should have warned him against not only having the Kardashian sisters sit on his lap, but sending out perhaps the creepiest publicity photos in CNN history.

I don’t really know enough to blame Morgan. I’d much rather work with a person on camera that you have to pull back a bit than one you must push forward. But no one was pulling him back.

And who told him his purpose in coming to America was to teach us about gun control all the while fracturing the statistics from the UK and speaking over those who tried to correct him.

The key is this: you can criticize this country on tv only if viewers believe you know this country and love this country… between New York and L.A.

In fact, my husband became the most patriotic person I know and seeing through his eyes made me even more patriotic. He even loves that Americans give second chances to failed politicians…invoking Winston Churchill.

Maybe Piers will have a second chance, too. He has a big personality made for TV, plenty of moxie, ego and mental sharpness. Just look how he made mincemeat of the legal panel investigating his role in the Murdoch newspaper hacking scandal. I watched it all. He made them look like amateurs.

But the damage has been done at CNN.

Zucker is under pressure, having failed to launch a successful new CNN morning show, just as he failed –hands on– launching “Katie” in syndication. (Hello, 1978′s calling, they want their talk show back.)

Zucker needs a great big splashy hit. Maybe if JLen can get over the NBC 10:00 purgatory thing with his old boss, all will be forgiven and it could be Zucker’s biggest booking ever. CNN has the money, now just shake that tree.

And let’s hope Piers Morgan learns to genuinely love America before he rolls in again to teach us right from wrong in politics AND TV.

Shelley Ross dailyXpress:

While I’m working on a new piers morgan column, I thought I’d re-post some of my earlier ones that gave me a foreboding feeling from the start. Sad thing is, it didn’t have to be so bad.

Originally posted on  shelley ross daily Xpress:

INTERVIEW IS TOUGHEST, BUT FOR WHOM?

WHEW, WHO ELSE  BUT THE QUEEN OF TALK COULD EVER HANDLE QUESTIONS LIKE THESE…

It began at 9:00 p.m. just like this:  after days of intensive CNN promotion where we see Oprah call it “one of the toughest interviews I’ve had in twenty years,” Piers Morgan opened the door, sat down and asked the first question on his highly anticipated new talk show.  I turned up the volume, shushed my husband and leaned forward.

PIERS: Tell me this, do you ever get surreal moments when, I’m trying to picture what it’s like being you, when you wake up in the morning and you go, ‘Bloody hell, I’m Oprah Winfrey.’

OPRAH:  Well I don’t say, “bloody hell,” but I did have a surreal moment, January 1st, when I launched my new network.

It had been only a matter of seconds before Oprah was pitching…

View original 1,248 more words

I really thought I would want to kick the door shut on 2013, a year that came roaring in with a cancer battle, months of chemotherapy treatments followed by a bilateral mastectomy and failed reconstruction.

I blogged about my diagnosis and treatment  last May, just 2 days before I learned the  reconstruction had gone wrong. Instead of winding  down the breast cancer experience, I was now starting anew.

There’s not much public discussion of failed reconstruction.  Surgeons  often like to trash each other: “Oh, I always have to fix his/her mess.” The truth is: breast cancer is a messy  business.  Reconstruction failures are not uncommon. Mine seemed very random.

In my case, my body rejected the internal “slings” that hold the new construction in place after everything else is removed in a 5 1/2 hour surgery.

The “slings” are made of repurposed sterilized cadaver tissue, an inert substance brought back to life by soaking in water. Once placed in the body, a network of newly grown blood vessels integrate the tissue. Occasionally there is a failure to “integrate” with one of the slings.

I failed to integrate both slings, something my two surgeons said “we’ve never seen before.”

Because the slings were literally disintegrating internally they had to be removed, along with everything else that had been put into place for reconstruction. Just four weeks after my double mastectomy, I was back in the OR for 2 1/2 hours, one of which was dedicated to sanitizing my open chest with shower heads.

Over the next weeks, the skin healed, but without any fat or tissue beneath it, internal scar tissue formed causing the skin to adhere to my rib cage.

I was no longer a candidate for reconstruction, but I could certainly channel Mick Jagger with my new androgynous figure, that is,  had it not been for the toll taken on my shoulders.

Two torn rotator cuffs later I decided the cause had to be a combination of chemotherapy, muscles pulling in new directions and a newly degraded posture.

So why would I dare say 2013 was a great year?

First and foremost, I got to make decisions that saved my life.

Secondly, I got to see the music group I discovered online and proposed to my husband and his business partner to manage, explode. ThePianoGuys hit Billboard’s top 20 and now have over 300 million views on YouTube. Along the way, we toured Berlin, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Singapore, Shanghai and Beijing where  they produced a stunning music video on The Great Wall. The PBS concert I produced and directed for them had over 1900 airings across the network.  Most importantly, I love them personally.

In 2013 I took over management of a book manuscript written by an old friend who was set on self publishing. I redirected a more traditional publishing and marketing plan that put Johnny Carson by Henry Bushkin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Oct 15 2013) on the NYT best seller list for weeks and was listed as #6 on Janet Maslin’s best books of the year. People Magazine also listed it among the best books of the year.

And there’s still more. As part of the executive producing team, I got to help Nik Wallenda realize his dream to walk across the Grand Canyon before a television audience of 20 million viewers, the largest ever live audience for Discovery.

So how can I say I didn’t love 2013, surrounded by so much brilliance  and creativity — especially the gang I ended the year with in Milan where on December 30th I underwent an experimental stem cell treatment to repair both rotator cuffs and prepare the skin on my chest for reconstruction. Ironically, I learned about these new treatments through my work as a founding member of TheCureAlliance, a non-profit group of elite doctors and research scientists who have banded together to share knowledge, break down barriers and find cures for all diseases in the 21st century. After the new year, I’ll be writing about the important research breakthrough that is benefiting me and many others.

Until then, Ciao!

imagesThe curtain has been pulled back and the BRCA gene is out of the closet as are quite a few women who are now revealing they’ve also had the same life-saving double mastectomy as Angelina Jolie.

I now join the sisterhood she created with her bold editorial in the NY Times; I had my double mastectomy just four weeks ago.

Disclosure of something as personal as having had both breasts removed is quite a daunting decision for many reasons, least of which is fear of being seen as “less of a woman,”  as even a world-class sex siren felt obligated to note. Read the rest of this entry »

Louis J. Rosner was my friend, my mentor, my teacher, and occasionally my doctor. And for 20 years, I was privileged to be his co-author.

I always viewed him as the Albert Schweitzer of Southern California, a great medical missionary pioneering a new land populated with Jaguars and Ferraris instead of elephants and giraffes.

Like Schweitzer, he believed the purpose of human life is to show compassion and the will to help others, and I quote, “each one of us can do a little to bring some portion of misery to an end.”
Louis Rosner did a lot.

Although he rarely spoke about his own challenges, a diagnosis of polio at age 21 forced Louis Rosner to trade his dream of a baseball career for a time out in an iron lung. He would never again walk without the aid of leg braces. While those braces could easily identify him, they would never define him. Read the rest of this entry »

The Mysterious Tango Between a News Spinner and Those He Spins

They must think we’re all gullible, or at least just a bit lazy. Take the recent spin from the Petraeus camp delivered by Ret. Col. Steve Boylan, a friend and former spokesman who appeared Monday on NBC’s Today Show and ABC’s Good Morning America to share personal information Petraeus told him in extended conversations over the weekend, most notably that the affair with Paula Broadwell began two months after he became CIA director in (around November 2011) and ended four months ago (July 2012.)

Twelve hours later Boylan was on CNN telling Anderson Cooper the same talking points. No one challenged Boylan or even asked if the general would be willing to testify about the timeline under oath.

When did they go “All In?” The wrong answer could lead to a court-martial.

For all the embarrassing details that have surfaced so far, earlier reports at least marked his appointment as CIA chief as the end of his extramarital affair, showing somewhat a more sober frame of mind. So why would he send Steve Boylan out with a story to specifically refute that point?

I suspect it’s all about Article 134 which covers the crime of committing adultery under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)  The penalty? Court martial, dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pension, even confinement.

At the risk of sounding preachy, the latest 4-star scandals should serve as a warning to journalists who have covered military and national security beats, along with their editors, anchors and producers. (George Stephanopoulos did ask if the affair began in while working on the book in Afghanistan; Boylan denied it.)

Petraeus seems to have been controlling his press image for decades as telegraphed years ago in his Princeton dissertation unearthed by journalist Michael Hastings.

“Perception” is key, Petraeus wrote in 1987.  “What policymakers believe to have taken place in any particular case is what matters — more than what actually occurred.”

Hastings is best known for his bold reporting that ended the career of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the predecessor of General Petraeus. He has written best-selling books and now digs into “The Sins of General Petraeus,” for BuzzFeed.com.

Hastings calls Petraeus “world class bullish** artist,” and details many of the ways he sees Petraeus has manipulated the media. As the scandal unfolds, a pattern does emerge.

We Now Know Petraeus Kept his Friends Close and his Biographers Closer

Before Paula Broadwell, biographer Linda Robinson wrote a glowing biography of General Petraeus and widely publicized it. He then hired her to work for him at U.S. Central Command.

Before Paula Broadwell, Petraeus spent time charming his first female biographer, Linda Robinson a highly regarded former national security and military reporter with U.S. News & World Report. Just as he broke the ice with Paula Broadwell, the general got to know Robinson on runs in Afghanistan and in 125-degree heat. Both journalists were ultimately welcomed in to his inner circle,  deemed fit for duty to tell his personal story.

In 2008, Linda Robinson wrote her take on David Petraeus and his war record: Tell Me How This Ends: General David Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq. After the book came out he rewarded her with a post alongside him at U.S. Central Command.

There is no suggestion that Linda Robinson and David Petraeus had an affair;  the similarities between her and Broadwell raise more questions about the development of a media cult around him.

Linda Robinson, 58, is currently an adjunct senior fellow on foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and is a Nieman fellow at Harvard University. She has also been a senior editor at the respected Foreign Affairs magazine and her work has appeared in the New York Times, theWashington Post and a string of policy journals. She has helped spread the gospel of General Petraeus.

In a series of interviews she also heaped praise on the man himself, including one in 2008 with NPR in which she expressed her affection for him, not dissimilar to the words of his second biographer, Paula Broadwell.

So, we now ask: through what prisms have we been viewing the general?  Has he mastered relationships with selected reporters to portray him as a man of military brilliance, honor and integrity.

“How did Petraeus get away with all this for so long?” Michael Hastings asks.

“His first affair – and one that matters so much more than the fact that he was sleeping with a female or two – was with the media.”

Hastings Calls Out A Shocking Media Conflict of Interest

The media, either for access or straight up cash (laundered through an organization Petraeus started called Center For A New American Security or CNAS), gave favorable reports or used quotes from unnamed sources which painted favorable pictures for one such strategy or another.

(CNAS) put the journalists who were covering those same plans and policies on its payroll. For instance, New York Times Pentagon correspondent Thom Shanker took money and a position from CNAS and still covered the Pentagon; Robert Kaplan, David Cloud from The Los Angeles Times, and others produced a small library’s worth of hagiographies while sharing office space at CNAS with retired generals whom they’d regularly quote in their stories.

Since the Petraeus/Broadwell affair scandal broke, all gloves are off; new investigations are underway into a possible abuse of power by Petraeus, unchecked until now –taking a girlfriend on a private military jet for his round-the-world “goodbye tour,” reportedly traveling with rock-star-worthy entourages that includes a CIA assistant assigned to provide fresh water and pineapple on his morning runs? It’s a tough balancing act, but it’s now the time for beat reporters to dig deeper, take off the kid gloves that have protected their access at the expense of what the rest of us need to know.

Read the rest of this entry »

PATERNO ISN’T THE ONLY ONE WHO FAILED TO PROTECT THE CHILDREN

UPDATE July 24, 2012The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s $60 million penalty for Penn State’s football program has underscored the severity of the crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky, the assistant coach found guilty on 45 counts of sexual abuse of minors.

In addition, the NCAA officially stripped legendary coach Joe Paterno of his victories over the past decade, denouncing his role in a system-wide cover-up of the sex crimes which including including a rape of one boy in the team shower that was reported directly to him by an eyewitness.

I’m with NCAA executive chairman and Oregon State President Ed Ray who said yesterday, “The fundamental story of this horrific chapter should focus on the innocent children and the powerful people who let them down.” 

Joe Paterno’s bronze statue was removed the day before the NCAA stripped him of his victory record.

Joe Paterno isn’t the only one who failed to protect the children, so let’s not stop our public repudiation with the one guy who’s already dead.  Yes the president of Penn State was pressured to resign as was the chairman of Penn State’s Board of Trustees, but it shouldn’t stop there.

It is now time to hold accountable Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett who was attorney general during at least six of the 15 years Sandusky was molesting children and, as governor, was automatically given a seat on the Penn State Board of Trustees. 

BRINGING NEW MEANING TO “AT-RISK YOUTH”

Public records show that Tom Corbett, during his campaigns for attorney general and governor, received  $647,481.21 in political donations from present and former board members of The Second Mile, the non-profit charity for at-risk youth founded and run by Jerry Sandusky.

What’s more, despite personal knowledge of  the Sandusky child molestation investigations, Gov. Corbett approved a $3 million state grant to The Second Mile. The grant has been put on hold, but Gov. Corbett should now address possible conflicts of interest, influence peddling and, at best, his failure to lead.

Read the rest of this entry »

Matt? Savannah? GMA? NBC Execs? You won’t believe who did what in this summer network mystery special!

When high crimes are committed against network news careers  you can be sure of one thing: finger prints are never left behind.  Given the challenge, this kind of unsolved mystery needs a top television sleuth, someone willing to follow the trail while the blood is still fresh and revisionist publicists have yet to spin the story into infinity.

Preferably, the best choice to solve the high-profile case of the sudden disappearance of Ann Curry should have experience in the crime beat of morning news. So, for the greater good (of the blogosphere at least) I must volunteer myself, a long-time morning show executive and, just like NBC’s Detective Olivia Benson, a crime fighter whose skills have been sharpened by once having suffered a personal assault as well.

THE TALE OF THE TAPE
Curry Cringe w/Matt v. Teddy Bear Hug w/Al

And so we begin, first examining the suspects who were last seen with the victim, sitting on that couch as she tearfully said goodbye to her beloved audience.   Natalie? No, she’s not All About EveAl? No, he doesn’t even qualify as a red herring although he  likes to eat them. Matt? Now we might want to put Matt in a line up at least and not because he’s just re-signed a ridiculous new contract, one we can fairly assume was designed to make all his dreams come true.  No, we just need to look at the victim’s body language and Matt’s not off the hook quite yet. Read the rest of this entry »