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Actress Phylicia Rashad pens mea culpa to Howard U over tweet celebrating Bill Cosby’s release

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Actress and Howard University professor Phylicia Rashad has offered up an apology to students and others angry over a celebratory tweet she posted earlier in the week after former co-star Bill Cosby was released from prison on a technicality stemming from his criminal sexual abuse conviction.

Rashad, who played Cosby’s TV wife on the comedy series “The Cosby Show,” which ran for eight seasons on NBC beginning in 1984, was responding to an outpouring of anger and criticism including from some of Cosby’s alleged victims after she suggested he was wronged.

“FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!” Rashad tweeted.

On Friday, she apologized for her post.

“My remarks were in no way directed towards survivors of sexual assault. I vehemently oppose sexual violence, find no excuse for such behavior, and I know that Howard University has a zero-tolerance policy toward interpersonal violence,” Rashad, a Howard University alum who recently became the reopened College of Fine Arts dean, said, adding she has since removed “that upsetting tweet.”

For the next few weeks, Rashad wrote in her letter to Howard University students and parents, she’ll “engage in active listening and participate in trainings to not only reinforce University protocol and conduct, but also to learn how I can become a stronger ally to sexual assault survivors and everyone who has suffered at the hands of an abuser.”

After her first tweet got so much pushback, Rashad wrote in a follow-up post.

“I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward. My post was in no way intended to be insensitive to their truth. Personally, I know from friends and family that such abuse has lifelong residual effects. My heartfelt wish is for healing,” she tweeted.

Janet Hubert, who starred in TV’s “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” was one of the first to respond negatively to Rashad’s statement.

“Phylicia what are you thinking!!! I don’t know you but to say this was terribly wrong. EVERYONE knew what he was doing back then,” she wrote. “How could you NOT! Get your umbrella sista here comes the shit shower. I am outraged that he has been released. Yes he is an old a– guilty man!”

“I would have said he’s old he’s out and I’m happy for him, but he still …guilty. I know 5 women who have not come forward,” she added. “Enough Ya’ll we know better. Powerful men do wrong things, black or white…”

Cosby was released this week after he served two years of a three-to-10-year sentence at a state detention facility near Philadelphia. He was convicted of first drugging and then sexually abusing Andrea Constand in 2004.

The long-time actor and comedian had testified years earlier during a lawsuit filed by Constand that he used drugs including Quaaludes to seduce women and then have sex with them. He gave his testimony under the agreement that he would be immune from prosecution, but he was arrested in 2015 by a Pennsylvania state prosecutor 12 days before the statute of limitations expired after his previous testimony was unsealed.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Cosby’s testimony in the lawsuit was improperly obtained and then used to convict him, with justices determining that it amounted to a “coercive bait-and-switch” and was therefore unconstitutional.

The state high court also ruled that following a mistrial, the judge hearing the second trial allowed additional accusers to testify against Cosby, which tainted the case.

Earlier in the week, Howard University put out a statement disavowing Rashad’s initial celebratory post.

“Survivors of sexual assault will always be our first priority,” read a statement posted to the institution’s social media accounts. “While Dean Rashad has acknowledged in her follow-up tweet that victims must be heard and believed, her initial tweet lacked sensitivity towards survivors of sexual assault.”

Jon Dougherty

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