Barbershop: Cosby Convicted, Kanye West's Tweets, Buffalo Bills Quarterback
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now it's time for the Barbershop. That's where we talk to interesting people about what's in the news and what's on their minds. In the chairs for our shape-up today, Paul Butler. He's a law professor at Georgetown University. His latest book is "Chokehold: Policing Black Men." He's here with us in our Washington, D.C., studios.
Welcome back, Paul.
PAUL BUTLER: What's up, Michel? Woof, woof, woof.
MARTIN: Well, clearly you. Also here in D.C. is Julia Craven. She covers race in America for Huff Post. Thank you so much for joining us.
JULIA CRAVEN: Thanks for having me on.
MARTIN: And with us from WCLK in Atlanta is CNN writer AJ Willingham. Glad to have you back with us as well.
AJ WILLINGHAM: Great to be here.
MARTIN: And there are a number of things we wanted to bring up this week. And one of our producers made the observation that, this week, we're looking at people who have said something or done something that has changed how we view them. So naturally, we want to talk about Bill Cosby. On Thursday, a jury found him guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home 14 years ago. And I think most people know by now that there are 50 - at least 50 similar allegations over the years. But this is the only one that's gone to a criminal trial. You might remember that an earlier trial ended when the jury could not agree. This time, the jury did vote to convict on three assault charges.
Paul, I'm going to start with you since you are an attorney, and you teach criminal law. What are your thoughts?
BUTLER: And I care about fairness, so I think Bill Cosby is guilty, but I don't think he got a fair trial. Normally, the prosecution isn't allowed to introduce evidence about other crimes because those crimes aren't on trial, and it's too distracting for the jury. So in Cosby's first trial, the jury - the judge followed that rule.
MARTIN: Well, one person who did have a prior experience did testify...
MARTIN: ...One person who testified to an earlier assault.
BUTLER: That's right.
MARTIN: In this case, there were...
BUTLER: And it almost seems like the judge did that so that Cosby could be convicted.
MARTIN: But how could that not be considered probative? I mean, it speaks to a pattern.
BUTLER: Because it's too prejudicial. Again, just because you did something one time doesn't mean that you did it a bunch of other times, and the jury, though, is likely to think that. And the concern, Michel, is that there's this long history of black men being falsely accused of rape.
Now, I don't think that that's the case with Cosby, but, at the same time, these procedural protections are really important. I have zero sympathy for Cosby. In a way, it's a kind of poetic justice that he's getting black man's justice, right - because he's been so critical of other African-American people. But also, as a black man, I don't like exceptions to rules that make it easier for prosecutors to lock people up.
MARTIN: Julia - thoughts?
CRAVEN: Do you - so do you think that we could have gotten a guilty verdict for Cosby if that extra evidence hadn't have been introduced?
BUTLER: We might not have. But again, that's not the test. It's not about rigging the rules to try to get a conviction. It's about following the rules for a fair process.
MARTIN: Any thoughts, AJ?
WILLINGHAM: I think, in general, this verdict is one of the ways that we're going to see the Me Too movement and sort of this justice, whether it be in the courtroom or whether it be in the court of public opinion, for these celebrities. And, of course, one of the things I think is then there's this pitch out that Charlie Rose is trying to pitch this show or his people are trying to pitch this show where he talks to other men who have been accused - Matt Lauer, Louis C.K.
And so you look at the Bill Cosby verdict, which is, you know, in a court of law. And then you look at this sort of other side, this other moving forward of these arcs, and it's just really, really hard to reconcile that. And, you know, I'm no legal mind. I'm no legal expert. But when I'm seeing the Cosby verdict, which has happened after so many years, and then - but you're also seeing this other sort of offshoot, which is just - it's really, really difficult to see.
MARTIN: I don't know what you mean by reconcile - not sure what you mean by reconcile that.
WILLINGHAM: Well, it's hard to reconcile, for instance, the idea that Charlie Rose or that somebody else who is involved in this movement would sort of get a boost while other men - obviously, there's a spectrum of things that they're accused of...
WILLINGHAM: ...But the other men are being found guilty in a court of law. It's just a strange thing.
MARTIN: Well, OK. Final point, though - I would - well, I don't know. There are so many things to discuss here. But the fact is, a man who is accused of being a serial rapist, of drugging people and when they are unconscious - is a very different thing, it would seem to me...
MARTIN: ...From a matter that...
MARTIN: ...Where a person is accused of egregious workplace behavior, which is different. I just think - I don't know. There's an awful lot to say about this, and I don't think we can scratch the surface. So I will be very interested to see, Paul, whether jail time is - ever actually occurs here. And my guess would be it doesn't.
BUTLER: He's 80 years old. He's in frail health. And so, you know, it'll be interesting to see. I agree with what the judge does.
MARTIN: OK. So in other news, Kanye West, everybody's favorite rapper and Twitter philosopher, was not heard from from a while - for a while - and then he came back with a vengeance, voicing his support for Donald Trump. He posted an image of a make America great again hat signed by the president, who then gave him a shout-out on Twitter.
And before people want to send me a lot of hate mail about why are we talking about this, I will point out that the former president George W. Bush once said that one of his worst days as president was when Kanye said that George Bush doesn't care about black people - this after Hurricane Katrina. President Obama once had choice words for him off-mic. So he's gotten into three presidents' heads. I'll just say that. So on that score, Julia, I take it that you are a fan. What do you make of all the Kanye-ness and what's happening now?
CRAVEN: Fan is something that I'm reconciling with these days. I - it's kind of hard to watch someone who I have admired for a very long time go down the route of supporting a president - see, it's hard to watch this because it's not so much that Kanye is a Republican. It's not so much - because people can support whoever they want to. My issue is that he is supporting an administration that upholds anti-black policies while claiming to care about black people and while painting himself as some type of avant-garde - like, he's this, like, free thinker, and he's, like, breaking all of these molds.
And it's, like, no. You're just - you're being contrarian on Twitter. And you're not - it doesn't seem to me like he's really thinking about the magnitude of what he's saying and what it is that he's supporting. Or maybe he is, and that makes it a little bit...
MARTIN: Well, he...
MARTIN: It may not - it may or may not shock you to know that Kanye released two singles last night, and one of them addresses this in particular. It's called "Ye Vs. The People."
MARTIN: And in the song, rapper T.I. seems to represent the people. We'll just play a little bit of it.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YE VS. THE PEOPLE")
KANYE WEST: (Rapping) Bro, I never, ever stopped fighting for the people, actually wearing the hat to show people that we're equal.
T.I.: (Rapping) You've got to see the vantage point of the people. What makes you feel equal makes them feel evil.
WEST: (Rapping) See, that's the problem with this damn nation - all blacks gotta be Democrats - man, we ain't made it off the plantation.
MARTIN: All right. Paul Butler, who's...
BUTLER: Go easy. Go easy.
MARTIN: ...Paul Butler, who's wearing a Jay-Z T-shirt - just mentioning that...
MARTIN: ...Thoughts, Paul Butler?
BUTLER: Kanye is a brilliant artist. He's one of the five greatest rappers of all time. He's original. He's creative, and he's cray-cray. All of his fans know this, so nobody's going to vote for Donald Trump just because he says so. But they will listen to him. They're open to reasoned argument. And that sounds like democracy. As an American, as a hip-hop head, I'm loving this moment because I believe in civil discourse in the public square, and it sounds even better when it's laid down on tracks.
MARTIN: Oh, OK. AJ, thoughts?
WILLINGHAM: I think that this represents - it really, really challenges people's paradigms because if you're a conservative who sort of sees hip-hop artists in one particular bubble and is defending free speech but saying things like, shut up and dribble, or stick to sports, or we don't want to hear from entertainers or the elites, that's certainly challenging your paradigm when you have one of the greatest rappers alive come out in support of your president. On the other side, when you have people that think that Kanye and think that rap artists should - not should, but just in general represent a certain viewpoint - how are you going to take this viewpoint?
And I think it's a really, really interesting moment for people to have to sort of change around how they see things or double down on - you know, we do believe in free speech no matter who it comes from. Or, you know what? Just because he's black, just because he's a rapper, as he says - you know, do you have to be a Democrat? And how do we deal with that, not only as fans, but as advocates?
MARTIN: All right. Let me move on - one more issue, which also segues nicely from this whole point about what happens on Twitter and whether what happens on Twitter matters. The Buffalo Bills' new, 21-year-old quarterback Josh Allen - well, the NFL draft wraps up today, I should mention that. And he got some attention he probably didn't expect when some old tweets from his high school years surfaced just hours before the draft started, and there was liberal use of the n-word in one tweet. He says, if it ain't white, it ain't right.
Now, Josh Allen, who I should mention is white, has since apologized. The Bills still drafted him in the first round. AJ, you've been following this. What's your reaction?
WILLINGHAM: First of all, I don't understand why - he's had four years of college to clean up these old tweets. They're from 2012, 2013. And, you know, truly, these tweets were deleted within the last year, but clearly, somebody had them in their back pocket ready to go. And in the ideal situation, you wouldn't tweet racist things. You wouldn't tweet stupid things.
But one could make the argument that he was 15 years old. He was stupid. He's grown up in a time where you just put all your thoughts onto Twitter. But it just amazes me, Michel, that these young men are coming in. They know that there are millions of dollars at stake, there are millions of eyes on them and that these things aren't taken care of and...
MARTIN: So he should have been tweeted - he shouldn't have been dropped because he's dumb is what you're trying to say (laughter). We - Julia...
WILLINGHAM: Oh, no, no, no. I'm not saying that he wasn't drafted - I mean, I'm not saying he should...
MARTIN: I hear what you're saying. All right, Julia, I'm going to give you a really quick thought on this because, you know, you were closer to 15 than the rest of us here. Sorry, but...
CRAVEN: No, it's cool (laughter).
CRAVEN: I can see the point that we all say stupid things when we're 15. But I also have a hard time believing people (laughter) when they say that they don't understand that something is racist or something is bad. And I think at 15, you are old enough to understand that, you know, there are some things that you shouldn't say. And I saw that some of the narrative has been that he didn't really grow up around black people. And, like, I hear that. But, at the same time, it's - I just - I struggle with understanding that.
MARTIN: Paul, you get 30 seconds - actually, less - 20.
BUTLER: Because I'm - that I can just say I'm glad Twitter wasn't around when I was 15. Because I...
WILLINGHAM: Yeah (laughter).
BUTLER: ...Sure wouldn't be sitting here now. And anybody who would condemn this man - where do you get off? Would you really want to be judged for dumb stuff that you did when you were a teenager?
MARTIN: Yeah. OK. Paul Butler, law professor at Georgetown University, author of "Chokehold: Policing Black Men." Julia Craven covers race in America for Huff Post here in Washington, D.C. AJ Willingham, writer for CNN with us from WCLK in Atlanta.
Thank you all so much for joining us.
BUTLER: Woof, woof, woof.
WILLINGHAM: Thanks, Michel.
CRAVEN: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.