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Phylicia Rashad, a Howard University dean, issues apology over Cosby statement

Phylicia Rashad arrives at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles in 2019. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

A previous version of this article incorrectly said Bill Cosby was convicted of drugging and raping multiple women. He was convicted of drugging and assaulting one woman. This article has been corrected.

Phylicia Rashad, the dean of Howard University’s College of Fine Arts, issued an apology Friday after receiving backlash and calls to resign from Howard alumni and other prominent voices over her tweet in support of former co-star Bill Cosby.

“This week, I tweeted a statement that caused so much hurt in so many people — both broadly and inside the Howard community,” Rashad wrote. “I offer my most sincere apology.”

Cosby, convicted of drugging and assaulting a woman, was released from prison Wednesday after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated his sexual assault conviction. After that ruling, Rashad, who played Cosby’s wife on “The Cosby Show,” wrote in a now-deleted tweet: “FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”

Rashad received immediate criticism as many pointed to her responsibility as a college dean to hold perpetrators of sexual violence accountable. 

“Honestly I’m really upset about Phylicia,” tweeted writer Jenée Desmond-Harris. “Howard is the ONLY institution I’ve ever been associated with that I actually care about, and that has the ability to disappoint or embarrass me. This sucks.”

In the apology issued Friday, Rashad said she does not excuse behavior related to sexual violence and plans to participate in trainings to “become a stronger ally.”

But many on Twitter were not convinced by her apology, citing Rashad’s long defense of Cosby, calling for her to acknowledge Cosby’s alleged transgressions and maintained calls for her to resign. 

“She has never believed in his guilt. . . . Rashad needs to resign for legacy sake,” tweeted actress Jewel Shepard. 

Following a Rashad tweet walking back her comments Wednesday, Howard issued a statement saying that while the follow-up tweet acknowledged that “victims must be heard and believed,” Rashad’s initial tweet “lacked sensitivity.” Howard did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday in response to Rashad’s apology. 

Rashad draws critics and dismissal calls for defending Cosby

Bill Cosby released from prison after sexual assault conviction is vacated by Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Sexual assault survivors are devastated by Bill Cosby’s release

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