LOS ANGELES - A lawyer for embattled US comic Bill Cosby lashed out Friday at new claims of rape and sexual abuse dating back several decades, saying they have "escalated far past the point of absurdity." The comments came as Cosby suffered a new setback when a live performance in Las Vegas was cancelled, just days after the plug was pulled on two TV projects.
The Treasure Island casino in the Nevada gambling hub scratched a show next weekend by the comic, a spokeswoman said.
Another planned stand-up performance set for next month in Arizona was also cancelled, according to local media.
The actor, known for playing a doting father on the popular "Cosby Show" in the 1980s and 1990s, has come under fire in recent weeks over claims made by several women.
"The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40 or even 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity," his lawyer Martin Singer said in a statement.
"These brand new claims about alleged decades-old events are becoming increasingly ridiculous, and it is completely illogical that so many people would have said nothing, done nothing, and made no reports to to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years." He made a plea to the media, saying: "it is long past time for this media vilification of Mr Cosby to stop."
Shows called off
Cosby, who has refused to personally address the claims, was greeted with a standing ovation at a show Friday in Florida, local media reported, but his next show after that, in Las Vegas next Friday, has been called off.
"By mutual agreement, Mr Cosby's show... at Treasure Island is cancelled," Michelle Knoll, a spokeswoman for the casino, told AFP. She gave no further explanation.
The Arizona Republic reported that a show at the Desert Diamond Casino in Tucson scheduled for February 15 had been cancelled, as had one in New Jersey, it said.
A spokesman for the Tucson casino did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Wednesday, US network NBC pulled the plug on a new Cosby sitcom, a day after streaming video service Netflix cancelled a planned special, piling pressure on the veteran comic.
On Thursday, a video emerged of Cosby declining to comment in a TV interview with the Associated Press, and trying to insist that it not air his "no comment." Cosby lawyer John Schmitt told entertainment news website The Wrap at the weekend: "Over the last several weeks, decade-old, discredited allegations against Mr Cosby have resurfaced." "The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true. Mr Cosby does not intend to dignify these allegations with any comment," he added.
The storm engulfing Cosby erupted last month when comedian Hannibal Buress branded him a "rapist" during a stand-up show in Philadelphia - a clip that went viral.
A number of women have since come forward with accusations that Cosby sexually assaulted them.