An inside look at the scandal and all the players involved
Bill Cosby was no Cliff Huxtable.
That’s what more than a dozen women now claim, alleging the comedy icon – who starred as a loving dad on The Cosby Show – drugged and sexually abused them.
In this week’s cover story, PEOPLE interviewed eight of Cosby’s accusers, as well as many people who have known and worked with the comedian, 77, over the decades.
“He marched the halls of NBC like he was Oz,” says a writer who worked with him on The Cosby Show. “You didn’t say no to him.”
Some of his accusers, such as Joan Tarshis, are coming forward for the first time. Others, including Tamara Green and Beth Ferrier, first spoke to PEOPLE in 2005 and 2006, when Temple University employee Andrea Constand, then 32, launched a criminal complaint and civil suit against Cosby accusing him of drugging and groping her, which he denied. The criminal case was dropped for a lack of evidence, and the civil suit was settled for undisclosed terms.
A few of the women speaking now, including Therese Serignese, supported Constand’s case as anonymous Jane Does and have now decided to reveal their names.
Former publicist Tarshis, 66, was the first new accuser to come forward. She says Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in his bungalow on the set of The Bill Cosby Show in 1969.
She told no one at the time.
“There was no word for what happened to me,” she tells PEOPLE. “In 1969, rape meant you were walking in an alleyway and someone pulls a knife.”
Now, she says, speaking out has been a relief. “It was like, ‘Oh, my God. I’m saying this out loud and nobody’s blaming me.’ ”
Cosby’s attorney, Martin Singer, has blasted the new claims as “unsubstantiated [and] fantastical” and notes that none of the women ever filed legal claims against Cosby.
“I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn’t have to answer to innuendos,” Cosby told Florida Today.
Cosby was in the midst of a comedy tour – and a career resurgence – when the scandal exploded again, in part because of a bit by comedian Hannibal Buress, who called Cosby a “rapist” while performing in Philadelphia in mid-October and saw his comments go viral.
His accusers have little sympathy. “If I ever spoke to him, I would say, ‘Why don’t you just tell the truth and get it over with,’ ” says Kristina Ruehli, 71, a former secretary at his talent agency who claims he drugged and tried to assault her in 1965.
“I feel sorry for him, but he had this coming. These things catch up with you. He’s been living a lie.”
For much more, pick up the newest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Wednesday