Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 63–89 | Cite as

“The Destruction of a Legacy”: Agenda Setting and the Bill Cosby Sexual Assault Allegations

  • Larissa Terán
  • Tara M. Emmers-Sommer
Original Paper


Utilizing agenda setting theory, this study investigates the Bill Cosby sexual assault allegation scandal and how the scandal is framed by the media. In order to examine if and how varied networks reported differently on the Cosby scandal, sixty articles from three, distinct networks (CNN, FOX News, E!) were analyzed and coded under seven different categories. Results demonstrate a significant difference among the analyzed networks and media frames most reported in the sample for this study. Although all networks address Cosby’s rise and fall of an American hero, agendas set and story frames presented varied. Specifically, CNN highlighted victims’/survivors’ powerful voice whereas E! and FOX News highlighted Cosby’s support from the black community, celebrities and co-stars. Additional results, discussion and future directions follow.


Agenda setting theory Mediated communication Bill Cosby Sexual assault Scandal 



This manuscript is based on the first author’s thesis, directed by the second author. The authors thank Dr. Tara McManus, Dr. Jennifer Guthrie and Dr. David Dickens for their helpful comments on the project. An earlier version of this MS was accepted to the 2017 National Communication Association conference, Dallas, TX.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors are not aware of any conflict of interest pertained to this manuscript.

Human and Animal Rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of CommunicationUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Communication StudiesUniversity of NevadaLas VegasUSA

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