Does People magazine or the New York Post have a time machine?

Enquiring minds want to know

Does People magazine or the New York Post have a time machine? (Illustration of man leaning against question mark by Mohamed Hassan)
Does People or the New York Post have a time machine? Enquiring minds want to know. (Illustration by Mohamed Hassan)

Discrepancies between two stories published by People magazine and the New York Post regarding past sexual assault allegations levied against comedian Bill Cosby indicate something isn’t right — and for once, it’s not Cosby’s alleged conduct.

A People magazine online story by Stephen M. Silverman dated Oct. 19, 1998 said Bill Cosby was threatening the National Enquirer with a lawsuit unless it retracted a story claiming Lachele Covington, an actress on CBS’s “Cosby,” accused the comedian of sexual abuse. The People story quotes the Enquirer’s already published article as saying Covington told the NYPD on Feb. 1 (ostensibly 1998) that Cosby fondled her and exposed himself.

The Enquirer told People — ostensibly on Monday, Oct. 19, 1998 — that it was standing by its story, which included Cosby’s denial of Covington’s allegations, People reported. Here’s Silverman’s brief story from People, in its entirety:

Bill Cosby is peeved. The comic is threatening a $250 million lawsuit against the National Enquirer unless the tabloid retracts a story that claims that actress Lachele Covington, 20, who has a recurring role on CBS’s “Cosby” as a waitress, accused him of sexual abuse. “The story is not true,” Cosby spokesman David Brokaw told the Associated Press. “Nothing happened.” Brokaw said that Cosby first heard of the claim when he read it in the Enquirer. According to the story, Covington told New York City police on Feb. 1 that Cosby fondled her breast and exposed himself. The police complaint filed by Covington was referred to the district attorney’s office, which declined to prosecute, says the paper. On Monday the Enquirer said that it is standing by its story — which, it notes, includes Cosby’s denial of Covington’s allegations.

The New York Post published an online story by Mark Stamey dated March 2, 2000 that also deals with Covington’s sexual assault allegations against Cosby. Here are the first two paragraphs of Stamey’s story:

A stunning actress who asked Bill Cosby for career advice accused the comedy legend of hanky-panky after the two dined alone at his swank East Side townhouse, law-enforcement sources said yesterday.

Lachele Covington, 20, who has appeared on Cosby’s CBS TV show, filed a police report saying the beloved comedian put her hand under his T-shirt and guided it south toward his sweatpants, the sources said.

“But in its upcoming issue, the National Enquirer quotes Covington’s relatives saying Cosby went further — grabbing her breasts, trying to put his hand down her pants and exposing himself,” the Post’s story goes on to say.

Both stories deal with the same set of allegations by Covington, but the 1998 People story indicates the alleged episode happened in the past, while the 2000 Post story seems to indicate it happened more recently — and mentions a then-upcoming Enquirer story not yet published.

Plus, how could Covington be 20 years old in both 1998 and 2000?

Obviously, at least one of the two stories has been published online under the wrong date.

Correcting errors is always important, but it’s even more important in this case given the growing list of sexual-assault allegations being levied against Cosby and the derivative nature of many stories being written about those allegations.

I reached out to both People and the New York Post yesterday seeking clarification.

“When past stories were archived some of the dates got screwed up, so I really cannot confirm or deny the date,” Silverman responded via Twitter.

No one from the New York Post has yet responded to my Nov. 29, 2014 email.

Billy Suratt

Billy Suratt is a Mid-South photojournalist and Kentucky writer. He enjoys long walks on beaches, short walks through parking lots and shooting football by candlelight. Follow him on Twitter, but please not through any parking lots.

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  1. Covington is not the only accuser whose story doesn’t match. Actually close research shows that most of the accusers never tell the same story twice. Thank you for at least trying to find the truth. Thats something none of the other journalists have bothered doing.

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