On Wednesday (June 30), Phylicia Rashad took to Twitter to rejoice in the news of her former television husband Bill Cosby’s release from prison. The gleeful message resulted in backlash, causing the 73-year-old to delete the tweet and send another message in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault.
As VIBE reported, Cosby was released from prison after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled an agreement with a previous prosecutor prevented him from being charged in the case. The disgraced comedian was convicted of sexual assault and had served two years of a three- to 10-year sentence. Although his release did not translate to innocence, Rashad tweeted his photo, declaring “FINALLY!!!!.”
The deleted message continued, “A terrible wrong is being righted – a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”
The actress used Twitter privacy settings to block anyone from responding to the tweet. Still, the criticism was made through quoted tweets and users issuing stand-alone responses on their own timelines. Janet Hubert, another beloved Black sitcom mom was one who slammed Rashad for her continued support of Cosby, despite the dozens of allegations, admittance, and conviction.
“Phylicia what are you thinking!!!” she wrote. “I don’t know you but to say this was terribly wrong. EVERYONE knew what he was doing back then. How could you NOT! Get your umbrella sista here comes the shit shower. I am outraged that he has been released. Yes he is an old a** guilty man!”
Hubert continued in a follow-up post. “I would have said he’s old he’s out and I’m happy for him, but he still …guilty. I know 5 women who have not come forward. Enough Ya’ll we know better. Powerful men do wrong things, black or white…”
I would have said he's old he's out and I'm happy for him, but he still …guilty. I know 5 women who have not come forward. Enough Ya'll we know better. Powerful men do wrong things, black or white…
— Janet Hubert (@OGJanetHubert) June 30, 2021
There were also calls for Phylicia Rashad to be fired from her new role as dean of the Fine Arts College at Howard University, which began on July 1. The Washington DC-based HBCU was forced to make their own statement, not to dismiss Rashad, but to affirm the institution’s stance on Rashad’s tweet.
“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,” Howard said. “Personal positions of University leadership do not reflect Howard University’s policies. We will continue to advocate for survivors fully and support their right to be heard.”
According to Howard University’s 2019 daily crime log, 11 sexual assaults were reported on campus in 2019. This number is higher than the eight sexual offenses reported in 2018 and the five in 2017.
On Thursday (July 1), Rashad walked back on her original statement, which had been deleted before the subsequential post. She issued a new tweet, with no mention of Bill Cosby. In her revamped opinion, the Creed actress centered the trauma survivors of sexual assault face and her support of their plight.
“I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward,” she shared. “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.”
I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward. 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.
— Phylicia Rashad (@PhyliciaRashad) June 30, 2021
As the digital world imploded with takes from all sides on Cosby’s release, the 83-year-old actor exited the jail cell to his home. According to the New York Times‘ Brian W. Perry, a lawyer on Cosby’s legal team said he was “thrilled” with the release.
“To be honest with you, we all believed, collectively, that this is how the case would end,” he said. “We did not think he was treated fairly and fortunately the Supreme Court agreed.”
Andrea Constand, the survivor of the assault which resulted in the criminal trial issued a statement of her own with her lawyers. The Times reported, she shared the message that Cosby’s release was “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.”