The university, which recently appointed Rashad as dean, said its tweet “lacked sensitivity” but that “the personal positions of university leaders do not reflect the policies of Howard University.”
After Phylicia Rashad tweeted in favor of Bill Cosby’s release on Wednesday, Howard University – where Rashad was recently appointed dean of fine arts – denounced his words, saying that they “lacked sensitivity towards survivors of sexual assault.”
Rashad, who played Cosby Clair Huxtable’s onscreen wife on The Cosby Show, tweeted a photo of her former co-star on Wednesday shortly after her rape conviction was overturned over a legal detail.
“FINALLY !!!! A terrible wrong is being righted,” Rashad tweeted. “A miscarriage of justice is corrected!”
In 2018, Cosby was sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison and registered for life as a sex offender after being convicted of the rape of Andrea Constand in 2004.
More than 60 women have accused the once-beloved comedian of drugging and sexually assaulting them over the decades, including at the height of his career. Constand’s rape was the only one for which Cosby faced criminal repercussions, largely because most of the allegations took place too long ago for prosecution.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the conviction – not because of new information suggesting Cosby’s innocence, but because the court found that his deal with a former prosecutor should have precluded the laying of charges.
Rashad turned off replies to his tweet on Wednesday, but still faced a quick reaction. A number of people have expressed concern and anger that the defender of a multi-accused serial rapist would take on such a prestigious academic role, given the high national rates of sexual assault on campuses.
Hours later, Rashad returned to his tweet but did not apologize.
“I fully support survivors of sexual assault who come forward,” Rashad said in a follow-up Tweeter. “My post was in no way intended to be oblivious to their truth. Personally, I know from my friends and family that such abuse has lifelong residual effects. My sincere wish is to be cured.”
Howard University disowned Rashad’s comments in a Twitter statement late Wednesday night, but did not announce any action against her following the incident.
“Sexual assault survivors will always be our priority,” the statement said. “While Dean Rashad acknowledged in his follow-up tweet that victims must be heard and believed, his initial tweet lacked sensitivity towards survivors of sexual assault.”
The university added that “the personal positions of university leaders do not reflect the policies of Howard University.”
“We will continue to fully defend the survivors and support their right to be heard,” they said. “Howard will stand up for survivors and challenge systems that deny them justice. We are fully convinced that our faculty and the management of our school will live up to this sacred commitment. “
The university and Rashad representatives did not immediately respond to a request for further comment from BuzzFeed News.
This is not the first time that Rashad – who in recent years has appeared in This is us, Grey’s Anatomy, and 13 reasons why – defended his former co-star.
In a 2015 interview with Showbiz411, she lambasted Cosby’s accusers and claimed that everything was “orchestrated”. “Forget about these women,” Rashad reportedly said. “What you see is the destruction of a legacy. And I think it’s orchestrated. I don’t know why or who is doing it, but it’s the legacy. And it’s a legacy that is doing it. is so important for the culture. “
In an interview with ABC News, Rashad later claimed she was misquoted, but reiterated her view that the focus should be on dismantling Cosby’s good reputation. (The Showbiz411 reporter denied that he misquoted Rashad, but admitted that his ‘forget about these women’ remark was not meant to ‘be taken as it was’.)
“It was a wrong quote. That’s not what I said. What I said was, ‘It’s not about women. It is about something else. It’s about erasing the inheritance. ‘ ”Rashad said. “I am a woman. I would never say such a thing.