Kathie Lee Gifford has opened up about how her ‘good friend’ Bill Cosby tried to kiss her when they were both married, saying the disgraced comedian who was convicted and imprisoned for sexual assault is not the man she knew.
The former Today co-host, 67, became close with Cosby, 83, when she and her backup singers worked with him for two years as the opening act of his comedy tour in the late ’70s. However, their friendship took a turn when he suddenly came on to her in 1981.
‘He tried to kiss me,’ Gifford told People. ‘He was not the first man during a multi-decade career that came on to me, and I’m just very grateful that I never let any of them take it any further than that.’
Looking back: Kathie Lee Gifford, 67, has opened up about disgraced comedian Bill Cosby, 83, trying to kiss her in 1981 when they were ‘good friends’
Moment: Gifford said their friendship took a turn when tried to kiss her at his Los Angeles home, but she brushed off his advances, telling him: ‘No. Bill, you’re my friend’
The singer wrote about the moment in her new book, It’s Never Too Late: Make the Next Act of Your Life the Best Act of Your Life, saying it was the ‘only time I had an unusual encounter with Bill.’
She was married to her first husband, Christian singer Paul Johnson, and Cosby was with his wife Camille when he offered to fly her from California to New York on his private plane,
Gifford had a meeting with the producers for Good Morning America to do a camera test in New York, and he suggested that she spend the night at his Los Angeles home, so they can leave early in the morning.
‘I had not an ounce of trepidation going to his home for the night,’ she wrote. ‘He greeted me warmly as he always did. He showed me to my room. And then he joined me for dinner an hour later.’
But when he walked her to her room to say goodnight, she said he stunned her by taking her face in his hands and kissing her.
Back in the day: The former Today host was still married to her first husband, Christian singer Paul Johnson (far left), when Cosby came on to her
Gesture: Gifford said the kiss happened the night before she flew to New York for a meeting with Good Morning America. She later met her second husband, Frank Gifford on the show
Gifford told People that it was ‘the one and only time that he did try to kiss me.’
‘I said, “No. Bill, you’re my friend.” He goes, “You’re right. Good night,”‘ she recalled. ‘So I found those accusations against him very painful, because that’s not the man I knew.’
Around 60 women have accused Cosby of sexual abuse, branding him a serial predator who plied victims with sedatives to assault them over four decades.
In 2018, he was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting a former Temple University employee in his mansion in 2004.
Predator: Cosby, pictured in his mugshot from September, was sentenced to prison in 2018 for drugging and sexually assaulting a former Temple University
Cosby has been housed in Pennsylvania’s new maximum security state prison known as SCI Phoenix for two years now. He was sentenced to serve three to ten years per count and could be eligible for parole next year if he enrolls in the prison’s sexual offender rehabilitation program.
Gifford admitted that the convicted predator was not the man she became friends with on tour, telling People: ‘This was the most admired man in America for years. He was called America’s dad, remember?’
She noted that she never bore witness to him ever doing anything suspicious when he would hang out with her and her backup singers and make them drinks.
‘I never saw anybody personally being treated that way by him in two years, traveling all over the country, staying in the same house with him whenever we went to Harris, or in Reno,’ she said.
‘We had great fun together, and I never thought a thing of it ever. He would make me cappuccinos, he’d make the girls cappuccinos, he would pour me a glass of wine on occasion, and I would read the stories about how he would put drugs in other women’s drinks and it was just foreign to me.’
I didn’t doubt the women’s stories,’ she added of his accusers. ‘I don’t know why he behaved the way he did with the other women, that’s their story to tell.’
In her book, Gifford wrote that while she was ‘surprised’ by his kiss,’ she ‘didn’t feel panicked.’ She explained that the chapter about Cosby is about ‘how you think you know somebody.’
‘I was as surprised as the rest of the world when, years later, Bill Cosby, at one time the most respected and admired man in America, was accused of all manner of despicable acts with a myriad of women,’ she admitted.