How would Claire Huxtable react to Phylicia Rashad's defense of Cosby?

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

In a television interview, Phylicia Rashad clarified what she said was a misquote by Showbiz411’s Roger Friedman. The Tony Award-winning actress said she never said “forget these women” in reference to Bill Cosby’s rape accusers.

“What I said is that this is not about the women; this is about the obliteration of legacy,” she said to ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis.

What seemed lost on Rashad was that her statement of correction was just as callous as the misquote. Over 20 women have stepped forward to offer detailed accounts of sexual assault at the hands of Bill Cosby, and Rashad thinks that this entire scandal is about the legacy of a television sitcom. Granted, there is not an American over the age of 25 who has not been impacted by The Cosby Show. It is the finest example of what a successful family looks like.

One thing is for sure: if Claire Huxtable had been in the room when Rashad spoke those words, she would have certainly checked her.

Claire Huxtable, the feisty matriarch of the Cosby family, not only led a successful law practice, she also balanced a household with 5 children, a silly but lovable husband and a revolving door of friends and relatives as her family grew. Claire was the type of woman who would never hesitate to use her quick wit to correct any antiquated patriarchal ideals expressed by a male in her presence.

Her character set the mark for what many women hope to become one day; strong, successful and wise. We were all influenced by Claire’s unwavering stance that women’s opinions and decisions are just as important as those of men. I am left to wonder what happened to the woman who portrayed our heroine. I don’t see Claire when I look at Rashad anymore. Where is our role model?

While it may be easy for Rashad to dismiss the allegations as frivolous — perhaps in an attempt to do some damage control, since her legacy is closely tied to Cosby’s —  I know that Claire has to be somewhere in the back of her mind whispering how foolish her statement was.

Claire would have told Rashad to have a seat, because women do matter. Claire would have told her that this is precisely the same warped mentality that prevents abuse victims from speaking out. We should never protect the “legacy” of an institution at the expense of the lives of women.

Women who are victims of abuse often speak up at the risk of backlash and being re-victimizing. To share a traumatic story of being abused by someone in a position of power is to risk public shaming and ostracism. Is this a situation that a woman would volunteer to go through just to fulfill some grand conspiracy against Mr. Cosby?

I really don’t think so, and I am certain that Claire would agree. In this day and age, women have enough obstacles to overcome considering the gender disparity in wages and politicians making decisions that impact our ability to govern our own bodies.

Claire would have suggested that Rashad had a right to her opinion on Cosby’s innocence but no right to brush aside these women. She would remind us that we can’t forget about the women and how difficult it is to carry the burden of sexual assault.

Claire would remind us that we may never know if all, some, or none of the allegations against Cosby are true. But for the sake of countless women who have been raped and abused and are too afraid to speak out, we can’t just simply dismiss these women. Doing so only offers permission to the next “gentleman” to behave recklessly, knowing that his dark deeds will never see the light of day.

It really hurts that Rashad of all people doesn’t seem to understand this.

Te-Erika Patterson is a multimedia journalist and blogger in Los Angeles. She is the publisher of MySavvySisters.Com, the leading empowerment blog for women.