Don Lemon, CNN, Bill Cosby Allegations


Joan Tarshis, one of several women who have resurfaced years-old sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby in recent days, says that she may have been taken aback by CNN anchor Don Lemon's comments last night, but she didn't think he was being insensitive.

Tarshis told Lemon Tuesday on CNN Tonight that, in 1969, Cosby forced her to perform oral sex on him after she told him that she might be infected with an STD and if they had vaginal intercourse the comedian could catch it. To which Lemon replied, "You know, there are ways not to perform oral sex if you didn't want to do it."

"I was kind of stoned at the time, and quite honestly, that didn't even enter my mind," Tarshis responded. "Now I wish it would have."

Well, Lemon's comment did not go over well on the Internet, prompting him today to issue an on-air clarification and an apology to anyone he might have offended.

"A word about my interview last night with Cosby accuser Joan Tarshis: As I am a victim myself, I would never want to suggest that any victim could have prevented a rape," said Lemon, who opened up in 2011 about coming out as gay to his mother and revealing to her that he had been molested as a child. "If my question to her struck anyone as insensitive, I am sorry as that was certainly not my intention."

Meanwhile, Tarshis, who was set to speak with Lemon again today, exclusively tells E! News that she herself didn't think that Lemon was being antagonistic.

"I didn't take it that way," she said. "I was just kind of shocked, but I didn't think he was saying, 'Oh, you could have presented this if you had just fought back.' I thought it was more of a good-natured, ‘Why didn't you just do that?' rather than saying, 'You could have stopped this if you had just done that.'"

Bill Cosby

Larry Busacca/Getty Images

"But quite honestly," Tarshis continued, "I felt [Lemon] and I didn't know each other, but...this is the second interview [we've done] together and he had kind of horsed around back stage before. He ran in late. We kind of like each other.

"And I just thought it was kind of maybe something he might not have said on air, [it] might have been seen as good taste to do it on air, but I certainly don't think that he meant anything malicious by it at all...It was very casually done. It was almost like we were together at a restaurant and saying ‘Why didn't you do this, hey girlfriend.'"

The resurgent allegations against Cosby, including accusations of assault made by Janice Dickinson in an ET interview that aired yesterday, have prompted Netflix and NBC to pull the plug on deals they had with the former sitcom star.

Cosby attorney Martin Singer told E! News in a statement today that Dickinson's claim that she wanted to include her story in her 2006 autobiography but was pressured not to by Cosby's legal camp was "a complete lie."

"You can confirm with HarperCollins that she never claimed that Mr Cosby raped her, that no attorney representing Bill Cosby tried to kill the story (since there was no such story) and no one tried to prevent anything she wanted to say about Bill Cosby in her book," Singer said.

—Reporting by Claudia Rosenbaum

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