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An embattled Bill Cosby received another warm reception at a comedy stage show amid resurfaced rape allegations that have threatened to tarnished his image as one of America's favorite TV dads and have spurred cancellations of on-air and stage appearances for the 77-year-old comedy icon.
The Cosby Show star and comic, who has never been charged with a crime over the decades old accusations, received a standing ovation during a sold-out performance in Florida on Friday, NBC News reported. This marked the second such positive audience reception since he returned to the stage a day earlier for the first time since the controversy erupted.
While security was beefed up around the venue, the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts at Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne, the show took place without any problems. NBC News said he spoke on stage about family, religion and his childhood and that at one point, an audience member yelled "We love you, Bill Cosby!" The actor held up his fist to sustained applause, the outlet said.
NBC News reported that a local radio show had promised a $1,000 prize to anyone who filmed themselves heckling Cosby and that venue officials told audience members over the loudspeaker to be prepared for a possible "disturbance."
"So today I was informed of this radio station that is offering money for people to stand up and heckle in order to collect prizes and money," Cosby told the Gannett news outlet Florida Today before the show.
"The thing is, these people are prodding and pushing people and asking people to have a frat house mentality. Now suppose someone brings a weapon or decided to do more foolishness. There will be announcements made and the stations made some disclaimers, but what if people don't listen to what they said and they entice violence?" he said. "That's not good for anyone."
A lone protestor, Julie Lemaitre, stood outside the venue with a sign that read "Rape is no joke." Florida Today said security officers asked her to leave the property and that she was later joined by another demonstrator. No arrests were made.
For more than a week, after a video of comedian Hannibal Buress talking about them and calling Cosby a "rapist" went viral, several women, including supermodel and reality star Janice Dickinson, have said in the press that Cosby sexually assaulted them in the '80s. Cosby has been asked about the allegations in recorded interviews, refusing to comment in an NPR chat and telling an AP journalist on-camera, "No, no, we don't answer that."
"I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn't have to answer to innuendos," Cosby told Florida Today. "People should fact check. People shouldn't have to go through that and shouldn't answer to innuendos."
The actor's lawyers have issued several statements over the resurfaced accusations. NBC News quoted Cosby's attorney Marty Singer as saying on Friday, "The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40, or even 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity," adding, "It is long past time for this media vilification of Mr. Cosby to stop."
The controversy has spurred the cancellation of a planned NBC comedy project for Cosby, as well as the postponement of an airing of a standup comedy special on Netflix. Cable channel TV Land pulled all Cosby Show reruns off its schedule and deleted all material related to the hit '80s series from its website.
He pulled out of an appearance on The Queen Latifah Show on his own accord soon after Buress' video went viral, while an interview on The Late Show With David Letterman was canceled later, as the backlash grew. Several comedy shows, including one at the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, that were part of a tour that runs through April have also been canceled.