Kathie Lee Gifford has some… interesting ideas about friendship. Calling into Andy Cohen’s radio show earlier this week, the seasoned daytime host revealed that even though they respectively face multiple accusations of rape, assault, abuse and sexual harassment, she still reached out to both Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein. Her reasoning, as she claims, implies that there are levels to these kinds of accusations and nuance to be considered because she has gone through similar traumas to the ones these men are accused of.
“Since I got into this business as a teenage girl, I have been sexually harassed. I have been sexually abused, and I have been date raped. Don’t tell me they’re all the same because they are not,” she said. “I don’t want to throw everybody on the same manure pile. Being a jerk is not the same as being a rapist. It just isn’t.”
That statement feels a little off in my opinion. Both Weinstein and Cosby have been accused of various and sundry sex-related crimes by multiple women. While the place Gifford is coming from is certainly upsetting, with mention of her own personal history being mentioned in the same breath as these men, it’s hard not to balk at the idea of these men simply being called “jerks” for what are seriously grave accusations. That’s not jerk behavior; that’s the behavior of a predator.
In that same call to Cohen, she also admitted she reached out to both men immediately after their behavior became public. “I’ve been friends with Bill a long, long time,” she said. “Harvey Weinstein was a friend of mine for 30 years… I called him and left a message.”
As for why she still reached out to these men when most of the entertainment industry turned its back on them?
“I just want people to know I don’t judge them,” Gifford said. “I don’t like what they do, but God knows their hearts and there’s hope for them. And you can’t call yourself a friend when, the first minute where there’s trouble, you run. That’s called a fair-weather friend… and that’s not a friend at all.”
This is where Gifford is wrong, though. If you find out that a friend is a habitual abuser, a rapist, a person who assaults and degrades women regularly and has for decades, removing that person from your life does not in any way make you a fair-weather friend. It makes you a person with standards for the relationships in your life. Deciding that a person’s bad behavior has crossed a line or is too much for you to have in your life is not being a fair-weather friend. Gifford’s statement implies that if you’re friends with someone and they do something terrible, you still owe them your continued friendship on the basis that you were friends with them before learning their true colors. That’s not how friendship works.
If Gifford chooses to keep these men in her life, that’s her prerogative. But to shame others for “judging” them and to say that it’s wrong to end relationships with them after learning about their despicable behavior is not OK.