Phylicia Rashad sends apology letter to Howard students, parents over Cosby tweet
"My remarks were in no way directed towards survivors of sexual assault," says Rashad of a tweet celebrating Bill Cosby's release that received blowback online
Actress Phylicia Rashad received a great deal of criticism for sending a tweet on Wednesday in support of Bill Cosby‘s sexual assault conviction being overturned earlier this week and his subsequent release from prison.
Rashad, who earlier this year was appointed dean of Howard University’s reestablished fine arts department, has now written an apology letter to university students and their parents regarding her message, according to a CNN report.
“My remarks were in no way directed towards survivors of sexual assault,” Rashad wrote in the message. “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 has also stated that in the coming weeks, she intends “to 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.”
Phil Lewis of Huffpost posted screenshots of Rashad’s message in full to Twitter Friday.
“This week, I tweeted a statement that caused so much hurt in so many people — both broadly and inside the Howard community. I offer my most sincere apology,” the message read. “I am sorry. I intend to earn your trust and your forgiveness.”
In May, theGrio reported that Rashad was appointed as dean of Howard University College of Fine Arts, of which she is an alumni, graduating magna cum laude in 1970.
As reported in theGrio, Cosby’s sexual assault conviction was overturned by Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday. The comedian was originally sentenced to three to 10 years of prison for drugging and molesting Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban estate.
When he was released after serving only two years, Rashad reacted on Twitter, saying, “FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!” The tweet included a headshot of Cosby.
Rashad, who played opposite of Cosby as his wife on both NBC’s The Cosby Show (1984 – 1992) and CBS’ Cosby (1996 – 2000), is a longtime friend of the disgraced comedian.
Upon sending the tweet, Rashad immediately received backlash on social media. That was followed by another tweet from Rashad, saying, “I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward,” adding that the post “was in no way intended to be insensitive to their truth.” She later deleted the initial offending tweet from her profile.
Despite her initial apology, her original tweet prompted Howard University to make a statement denouncing the post.
“Personal positions of University leadership do not reflect Howard University’s policies,” the Washington, D.C. university said in a statement.
The statement read that “Survivors of sexual assault will always be our first priority. 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.”
Prior to his conviction of sexually assaulting Constand, several women had come forward accusing him of assaulting them. In July 2015, at least 35 accusers graced the cover of New York Magazine, all telling similar stories of how the comedian drugged them and assaulted them over the years.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that Cosby’s conviction was being overturned due to his due process rights being violated. According to the New York Times, Constand had taken Cosby to civil court in 2005 over the sexual assault accusations. Then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. opted not to pursue a criminal case against Cosby in exchange for his testimony in civil court.
During a deposition, Cosby admitted that he obtained Quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with.
The high court’s justices ruled that Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele had no standing to use that deposition nor testimony of five previous accusers in the 2015 criminal trial.
Castor, a Republican, served as Montgomery County district attorney from 2000 – 2008. He later sought to be elected to the office again in 2015 when he was defeated by the Democrat, Steele.
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