(lr) Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad appear on NBC News’ “Today” show.
Peter Cramer | NBCUniversal | Getty Images
Howard University disavowed a sympathetic tweet late Wednesday night about comedian Bill Cosby and his abrupt release from prison by his television wife Phylicia Rashad, the new dean of Howard’s College of Fine Arts, late Wednesday night.
Howard said in a statement that Rashad’s first tweet about 83-year-old Cosby had “a lack of sensitivity to sexual assault survivors”.
Washington, DC, historically black university added that “personal positions” of it and other school principals “do not reflect Howard University’s policies.”
Rashad had tweeted, “At last,” in capital letters and a series of exclamation marks, shortly after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned Cosby’s indecent assault conviction of a then-Temple University employee.
“A terrible wrong will be redeemed – a miscarriage of justice will be corrected,” added Rashad, who played Cosby’s wife on both the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show and the CBS sitcom Cosby.
Rashad’s tweet was widely criticized as unsympathetic to the numerous women who accused Cosby of sexual assault or harassment.
And there have been concerns among many online about how to deal with allegations of sexual assault in her role as the new dean of the re-established and renamed Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts.
Rashad later followed suit with a second tweet addressing that backlash.
“I fully support that survivors of sexual assault report,” wrote Rashad.
“My contribution should in no way be insensitive to its truth. I personally know from friends and family that such abuse has lifelong aftereffects.
But that tweet drew more criticism of Rashad, who in her earlier defense of Cosby had labeled some of the abuse allegations against him as “orchestrated”.
“You can’t support physical assault survivors and then cheer when a sexual predator gets away with a formality. Very disappointing,” one person wrote in response to Rashad’s second tweet.
Howard University said in its statement to Rashad, which was also tweeted, “Sexual assault survivors will always be our priority.”
“While Dean Rashad confirmed in her follow-up tweet that victims must be heard and believed, her original tweet lacked sensitivity to sexual assault survivors,” the statement said.
“We will continue to stand up for survivors and support their right to be heard,” said the university. “Howard will stand by survivors and challenge systems that would deny them justice. We have every confidence that our faculty and school leaders will live up to this sacred obligation.”
Linda Correia, a Washington attorney who sued Howard University in 2017 on behalf of six then-students at the university for failing to respond properly to their complaints of sexual violence, said of Rashad’s first tweet: “Well, I think the miscarriage of justice is for the victims, “who testified at Cosby’s trial.
“It’s not surprising that she supported him. She always supported him,” said Correia, whose clients last year settled their lawsuit with Howard on undisclosed terms.
She added, “I would say that I think any statement that goes against the recognition of the miscarriage of justice for the women who had the courage to come forward is not what the student survivors are likely to see now want.”
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that overturned Cosby’s conviction cited an oral agreement he had made with a former prosecutor that would have avoided criminal charges against him.
Wednesday’s ruling rules out a retrial in this case.
Cosby was sentenced to two years in prison for indecent assault against Andrea Constand in 2004 and was sentenced to three to ten years in prison.
60 women across the country have reported to accuse the “Cosby Show” star of rape or sexual harassment. Many of the prosecutors said they were drugged during these encounters.
Cosby said his contact with Constand was amicable. He has also denied all other allegations of misconduct.