Ebony, the leading black lifestyle magazine, put Bill Cosby on its November cover, sparking both satisfaction and rage on Twitter from the army of Cosby foes and his dwindling band of defenders.
The cover picture is actually two decades old — a group shot of Cosby with The Cosby Show co-stars, including Phylicia Rashad, who played his wife, and four of the actors who played his children.
But Cosby's grinning face is nearly obscured by an image of shattered glass.
#ICYMI - our November issue separates Cliff Huxtable & Bill Cosby. Start the conversation: http://t.co/ALEaVEslpOpic.twitter.com/ntL4qTrotV — EBONY MAGAZINE (@EBONYMag) October 16, 2015
The picture of an iconic black American TV family is the illustration for the magazine's issue on black families, with an examination of the real Cosby versus the beloved father figure he played, Cliff Huxtable.
Like the dramatic cover, the real Cosby's image has been shattered over the last year by the reemergence of accusations that he drugged and raped more than 50 women in encounters dating back decades, including when he ruled American sitcom TV from The Cosby Show.
The magazine is not even on newsstands yet, but after Ebony posted the cover on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter on Wednesday, posts and tweets piled up, ranging from how-could-you comments to it's-about-time reactions.
Bill Cosby shattered his own image, Ebony just printed the cover — MonsterKing (@CerromeRussell) October 16, 2015
This Ebony cover of the Cosby show pulls no punches. Whew. — James Jolly (jo lee) (@jamesjolly) October 15, 2015
Do not like this issue of ebony cover I understand what Bill Cosby did was disgusting but they cover brings down the legacy of a blk family! — Zee (@LovelyZinga) October 15, 2015
I dont like that new Ebony mag cover. Im sorry but u cant erase the legacy of Bill Cosby.....he has done wayyyyyyyy to much 2 much! — August AlSigma (@StarchildBarr) October 15, 2015
Editor-in-chief Kierna Mayo said on Facebook (before the post was deleted) that the cover wasn't an easy decision but it was necessary to have an honest conversation.
"I believe with everything that our collective healing (from this and all traumas) is tied to baring truths, confronting selves, and dismantling crutches," she wrote. "We aim to uplift. However, sometimes before you rise up, you break down."
Fascinating to witness how divided we are on the subject of #CosbyvsCliff . Keep talking people. Keep talking. — Kierna Mayo (@kiernamayo) October 16, 2015
#BlackTwitter vs #BlackFacebook. #CosbyvsCliff has some Black people maaaaad and some Black people glaaaaad. I love us. #BlackFamilyIssues — Kierna Mayo (@kiernamayo) October 16, 2015
On Friday, Mayo, who has been top editor only five months, was interviewed on CNN and confessed she had not slept for two days. She said she knows some African Americans think this sort of public discussion of the consequences of the Cosby scandal is "airing dirty laundry" and threatening to the image of "black-family perfection."
But neither Cosby nor his effect on black America, good or bad, can be ignored, she said.
"The bottom line is this is an urgent conversation we're having in black American and it was going to happen whether we did this or not," she said. "Ebony is not the reason we're talking about something that's been fractured...Ebony is not shattering anything. We're just asking African Americans to have an honest, forthright conversation about what (the Cosby scandal) means."
Some critics of the cover were concerned that it also tainted Cosby's co-stars, most of whom have continued to support Cosby, including Malcolm-Jamal Warner, who played son Theo on the show
Warner, who appeared on The View Friday, has been speaking out recently about his love for Cosby and his dismay that The Cosby Show legacy — as a counterweight to negative stereotypes of black people on TV —has been damaged by the allegations against Cosby.
Mayo said the Ebony cover meant no disrespect to Warner nor anyone else who appeared on the show. .
Other black media voices tweeted approval.
Ebony’s new cover shows just how far Bill Cosby has fallen with black America http://t.co/r05ts72Ifwpic.twitter.com/Vfob7VRaGI — Mic (@micnews) October 16, 2015
The powerful cover of the new @EBONYMag hit us right in the feels: http://t.co/ky5UxNnJlSpic.twitter.com/1zqeAzptji — Complex Pop Culture (@ComplexPop) October 16, 2015
The reality of that Ebony Cosby show cover is just WOW! That show was so iconic... #Sad — Damien Dante Wayans (@DamienDW) October 15, 2015