Though the multiple rape allegations against Bill Cosby only truly picked up steam this year, they've been around for a long time. In 2005, the National Enquirer planned to publish an investigation into the claims, but Cosby's lawyers threatened a lawsuit. The tabloid published a puff-piece interview with Cosby instead.

The Guardian has the story of the would-be investigation, which former Enquirer writer Robin Mizrahi began reporting shortly after Andrea Constand's allegations of assault against Cosby in 2005. Mizrahi also contacted Beth Ferrier, a second alleged victim, who ended up taking her story to the Philadelphia Daily News later that year. (Both of the women's stories involved being drugged, a now-familiar element of accusations against Cosby.)

Then Cosby's lawyers got involved:

But she was then informed by her editors that they had decided to kill it after the magazine came under pressure from Cosby's lawyers, who threatened to sue.

Further details of the exchanges between Cosby's team and executives at the National Enquirer are given in court documents lodged by Andrea Constand in the course of a civil lawsuit brought by her against Cosby's lawyer and the magazine. The suit says that the Enquirer "provided a copy of the unpublished Beth Ferrier article to Cosby and his representatives".

After negotiations between the two sides, carried out at a meeting between them in Houston, Texas, they agreed, according to the lawsuit, that "Cosby would provide an exclusive interview with the National Enquirer, if the National Enquirer would agree to refrain from printing the Beth Ferrier story". On 21 February 2005 the deal was sealed, with Cosby granting the interview to the magazine.

In the front-page interview the Enquirer published in lieu of the rape story, Cosby was not taken to task, but given a platform to denounce his accusers:

He argued that "words and actions can be misinterpreted by another person," adding that "I'm not saying that what I did was wrong, but I apologize to my loving wife … These allegations have caused my family great emotional stress."

He also cast aspersions on the motives of the women who had raised the allegations, saying: "I am not going to give in to people who try to exploit me because of my celebrity status."

It's a tactic Cosby's legal team is still using: this week, BuzzFeed News received a letter from lawyers cautioning reporters to "proceed at your peril" after a post about Janice Dickinson's recent allegation that Cosby sexually assaulted her in the '80s.

Mizrahi, who left the Enquirer in 2009, told the Guardian she is still "livid" about the tabloid running a "bullshit feel-good interview" instead of her story: "I feel sad for the women who tried to speak up and weren't listened to because he was so powerful and had such effective lawyers."

[Image via AP]