Actor makes flippant remark to journalist during dinner in Philadelphia.
Retrial scheduled to begin 2 April after July trial ended in hung jury.
Bill Cosby made reference to the anti-sexual harassment movement #MeToo on Wednesday during one of his first public outings since his 2017 sexual assault case ended in a mistrial.
“Please don’t put me on #MeToo,” the fallen comedian told a reporter, referring to the rising wave of activism that now hangs over the buildup to his April retrial.
Cosby had flown to Philadelphia for an Italian meal and tipped off reporters so they could observe him eating pasta with friends and greeting a few restaurant patrons.
“It was a decidedly odd affair,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
At one point during the evening, one reporter says Cosby shook her hand then said: “I just shook your hand like a man … please don’t put me on #MeToo.”
Cosby, 80, has avoided most public appearances since his criminal trial ended with a hung jury in June 2016. The trial centered on accusations by Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in 2004. Cosby faced possible prison time on charges of aggravated indecent assault.
Constand was just one of more than 50 women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault, claims Cosby flatly denies. The tidal wave of accusations unseated the TV comedy star dubbed “America’s Dad” and helped set the cultural changes in motion that led to the #MeToo movement, which went viral after movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was ousted last October. Constand herself has not spoken out since the trial, partly because she is under a civil settlement agreement with Cosby that dates to 2006.
Cosby is almost unique among the many men who have recently been toppled from positions of power in that he has faced criminal prosecution. His new trial begins on 2 April. But the impending court date did not appear to faze him on Wednesday night.
“We’re ready,” Cosby told reporters.
Last summer, a spokesman said Cosby was eager to make appearances at town halls in which he would discuss with young men how to avoid false accusations of sexual assault. Cosby later denied the spokesman’s comments, calling them “propaganda”.