Phylicia Rashad has issued an apology to Howard University students and parents for her tweet celebrating Bill Cosby’s release from prison after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his sexual assault conviction.
“This week, I tweeted a statement that caused so much hurt in so many people — both broadly and inside the Howard community,” Rashad wrote in a letter obtained by HuffPost editor Philip Lewis. “I offer my most sincere apology. I have since removed that upsetting tweet.”
The veteran actress, who just started a new position as dean of Howard’s newly reestablished College of Fine Arts, went on to say she plans 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.”
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Rashad’s apology letter was sent out Friday, two days after she posted a controversial statement on Twitter voicing her support for her longtime friend and former Cosby Show co-star.
“Finally! A terrible wrong is being righted – a miscarriage of justice is corrected!” Rashad wrote on June 30 in the since-deleted tweet.
The backlash was immediate, with social media users calling her out for celebrating the release of the comedian, who has been accused of sexual assault or rape by 60 women. Cosby has repeatedly denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.
A few hours after her initial tweet, Rashad clarified her comments in a second post. That same day, Howard tried to distance itself from her comments and said the university would always support survivors of sexual assault.
The HBCU’s statement read: “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. We will continue to advocate for survivors fully and support their right to be heard. Howard will stand with survivors and challenge systems that would deny them justice. We have full confidence that our faculty and school leadership will live up to this sacred commitment.”
In May, Howard announced Rashad had accepted a position as dean of its College of Fine Arts.
The Emmy-nominated actress is a Howard alumnus and has previously taught at the school as a guest lecturer.