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Comedian Bill Cosby, campaigning for Richmond mayoral candidate Doug Wilder, speaks to students at four of the state capital's public schools.
Date published: 10/12/2004
In urging young blacks to find self-worth in academics, Cosby's comments were similar to those he made in May in Washington, when he upbraided some inner-city blacks for squandering opportunities won in the civil rights movement.
Cosby was criticized by some black activists, just as Wilder has been in speaking bluntly in his mayoral race about black poverty, joblessness, crime and what he says is a lack of black leadership in this city of about 195,000.
Wilder and Cosby, however, said the visit grew out of their longtime friendship, and its timing three weeks before Election Day had nothing to do with politics.
Wilder, who in 1990 became the nation's first elected black governor, and Cosby, who helped desegregate prime-time television in the 1960s, said Cosby's appearance was not a tacit endorsement. Cosby said he wouldn't consider endorsing Wilder without first meeting his opponents.
"This is not a campaign piece," Wilder said. "I don't think it helps my campaign, I don't think it hurts my campaign."
With a national political portfolio, Wilder's campaign treasury and fame dwarf those of his opponents, including incumbent Mayor Rudolph McCollum.
Cosby was annoyed at the political speculation.
"I'm not running for any office and I think that Governor Wilder--let's all face it--would not need to set up a smokescreen in order to get the two of us to get some kind of publicity," Cosby said.