2007 file photo of Camille Cosby, left, and Phylicia Rashad, who have defended Bill Cosby against accusations of sexual abuse. (Andrea Bruce/The Washington Post)

Phylicia Rashad, the actress who played Bill Cosby’s wife, Claire Huxtable, on “The Cosby Show,” has finally broken her silence about the many allegations of rape and sexual abuse being levied against her former co-star. She maintained there was an orchestrated effort to take down Cosby.

Rashad defended Cosby in an exclusive interview with Showbiz 411’s Roger Friedman at a luncheon for “Selma,” hosted by Paramount Pictures in New York.

More than 24 women have come forward to say that Cosby attempted to drug or sexually assault them, including models Janice Dickinson and Beverly Johnson.

“Forget these women,” Rashad told Friedman. “What you’re seeing is the destruction of a legacy. And I think it’s orchestrated. I don’t know why or who’s doing it, but it’s the legacy. And it’s a legacy that is so important to the culture.”

When Friedman asked Rashad about Johnson and Dickinson specifically, he said Rashad responded, “Oh, please.”

Johnson spoke to the Hollywood Reporter at the Palm Springs Film Festival.

“It’s been a whirlwind month,” Johnson said. “I knew what to expect by coming here, and I was good with it — until I got here. My whole life changed in the last month. There has been an outpouring of women telling me their sexual abuse stories. I knew it was an important thing to do. Now I hear these stories wherever I go. I know, though, that speaking out was the right thing to do — it is always the right thing to do.”


Bill Cosby (Photo by Jeffrey MacMillan)

Cosby has denied the allegations of sexual abuse through his lawyers.

“Someone is determined to keep Bill Cosby off TV, and it’s worked,” Rashad said. “All his contracts have been canceled.”

The remarks from Rashad and Johnson arrived as two more women added their names to a defamation suit against Cosby. Therese Serignese and Linda Traitz joined a lawsuit filed by Cosby accuser Tamara Green, all claiming that Cosby defamed them by calling them liars when they accused him of sexual assault. They’re represented by Joseph Cammarata, the lawyer who represented Paula Jones in her suit against Bill Clinton.

“This suit allows these women to finally have their day in court against Mr. Cosby in a forum where truth can be tried,” Cammarata said in a statement via USA Today. “These women claim to have been defamed after coming forward with their allegations and deserve the opportunity to have their stories heard.”

At the end of December, Vibe noted remarks Cosby made about how his relationship with Rashad changed after she got pregnant during “The Cosby Show.” The magazine called them “strange” and “creepy.” The comments were from a November interview with News One published Dec. 29:

Ahmad Rashad messed up that thing. When he married her I didn’t mind, but then she got pregnant and I didn’t want Cliff and Clair to have another kid. So we had to hide her body, which took me away from — took Cliff away from – touching her and playing with her because I didn’t want the audience to see that. So when that season was over, and she went on and had the child, it was gone. Not the love for her, but it was gone in terms of, now we have to get back to the touchy – I just lost it.