As dozens of women's sexual assault accusations against Bill Cosby picked up steam in the past few years, there have been calls to revoke the Medal of Freedom that President George W. Bush hung around the comedian's neck in 2002.
The details of what Cosby did or didn't do are far from settled. Cosby said in a 2005 deposition he intended to give drugs to young women to have sex with them, but he has denied the assault accusations. County prosecutors in Pennsylvania charged him last month with sexual assault dating back to a 2004 case.
Even so, people in Washington on both sides of the aisle seem to agree that Cosby no longer deserves the nation's highest citizen honor. But they've so far been stymied by how to do it. That's because there is no established way to revoke the Medal of Freedom; it's never come up before, and Cosby would be the first honoree to lose it.
The president himself told reporters in July he can't simply revoke Cosby's medal.
"There is no precedent for revoking the medal,” President Obama said during a press conference in the East Room. “We don’t have the mechanism.”
A sexual assault prevention nonprofit, Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment, suggested that Obama issue an executive order removing the medal or simply ask Cosby to give it back. They launched a petition to the White House, but it failed to gain traction and got shelved despite support from powerful lawmakers like Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).
Now, though, there may be a sliver of hope for those who want Cosby's medal back.
On Thursday, Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) said he is preparing a bill that would strip Cosby of his medal. More accurately, it would establish a formal process to allow a president to revoke the Medal of Freedom.
"There's no room to have a bad apple," Gosar told reporters.
The bill puts the onus on the president; not only to sign it into law but to decide whether to revoke the medal.
Indications are, if it could get through Congress, it has a shot of at least being considered.
"We'll take a look at the proposal if Congress takes a vote on it," White House spokesman Joshua Earnest told reporters Thursday, "and we'll let you know if the president chooses to sign it."
When pressed further, Earnest indicated that the White House, while condemning what Cosby is accused of, isn't jumping at the chance to rewrite the rules of an honor, which goes back to President Truman honoring citizens during World War II.
"Symbolic commemorations are always difficult to deal with," he said. "You certainly wouldn't want a scenario where this kind of process could get infused with politics and you have successive Congresses in the future passing pieces of legislation to try to undo medals that have been conferred by previous presidents that happen to be in the other party."
But he didn't outright rule the idea out, which is a step forward for victims advocates. Gosar told reporters he has six Republican co-sponsors so far and expects "quite a few more" from both parties.
Like any bill proposed in Congress, it could be tough to pass. But for those who have been trying for more than a year now to find a way to revoke Cosby's honor, rewriting the rules via Congress may be their best — and only — shot.