Phylicia Rashad apologizes to Howard University community following outcry over supportive Cosby tweet
The Howard U dean penned a letter to parents and students.
Phylicia Rashad has apologized to the Howard University community following her tweet last Wednesday, in support of former costar Bill Cosby's overturned sexual assault conviction and immediate release from prison.
In a letter to the university's students and parents sent on Friday and obtained by CNN, Rashad, Dean of the College of Fine Arts, offered her "most sincere apology," for her original (and since-deleted) tweet praising Cosby's release.
"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," the actress and educator wrote in the letter, per CNN.
She also promised 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."
On the same day Rashad tweeted, "FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected," following Cosby's overturned conviction, a tweet which sparked an online firestorm, the actress seemed to respond to critics in a new post.
"I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward," she tweeted on Wednesday afternoon. "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."
Howard University also responded to the controversy on Wednesday, issuing a statement via twitter.
"Survivors of sexual assault will always be our 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. Personal positions of University leadership do not reflect Howard University's policies."
On Sunday, Cosby released a statement slamming Howard University for reprimanding his former TV spouse: "Howard University you must support ones Freedom of Speech (Ms. Rashad), which is taught or suppose to be taught everyday at that renowned law school, which resides on your campus."
He also took aim at the press in a muddled metaphor comparing them to the insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6. "This mainstream media has become the Insurrectionists, who stormed the Capitol," the statement continued. "Those same Media Insurrectionists are trying to demolish the Constitution of these United State of America on this Independence Day. NO TECHNICALITY — IT'S A VIOLATION OF ONES RIGHTS & WE THE PEOPLE STAND IN SUPPORT OF MS. PHYLICIA RASHAD."
Pennsylvania's Supreme Court overturned Cosby's 2018 sexual assault conviction, ruling that District Attorney Kevin Steele violated terms that previous DA and former Donald Trump impeachment lawyer Bruce Castor made with Cosby originally to not charge him back in 2005 following allegations from Andrea Constand. The initial decision forced Cosby to give a deposition in a civil case in which he made "incriminating statements" without Fifth Amendment rights protections, according to various reports about the ruling, including CBS News.
Cosby's accuser in the 2018 case, Andrea Constand, has called the overturned convictions decision "not only disappointing but of concern," in a tweet on Wednesday.
"Today's majority decision regarding Bill Cosby is not only disappointing but of concern in that it may discourage those who seek justice for sexual assault in the criminal justice system from reporting or participating in the prosecution of the assailant or may force a victim to choose between filing either a criminal or civil action," they said in their statement.
Our statement. pic.twitter.com/px4Y5cqYaZ
— Andrea C. she/her/they/them (@ConstandAndrea) June 30, 2021
Rashad's representatives and Howard University did not respond to EW's request for comment.