Phylicia Rashad apologizes for celebrating Cosby's release from prison, now she will be re-educated

(AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Actress Phylicia Rashad celebrated the release of her old friend and colleague Bill Cosby from prison. Her mistake was in doing so on social media. She has since deleted the tweet that caused an angry response and now says she will be re-educated. Rashad will take training on how to be a better ally for abused women.

Rashad played Mrs. Huxtable to Bill Cosby’s Dr. Huxtable from 1984 to 1992. The Cosby Show was a classic family-friendly television show. Bill Cosby was known for liberal political activism in his earlier career but during his later years, in his Dr. Huxtable days and with the Jello Pudding Pops commercials, he morphed into America’s dad. He dispensed fatherly advice and told children in at-risk communities to get an education to improve their lives. Then, Cosby fell from grace as over 60 women came forward and told some truly ugly stories of sexual assault. As we know, he was imprisoned after a trial and served two years of a three to ten-year sentence. Cosby was released on June 30. His friend Phylicia tweeted her joy.

“FINALLY!!!!” she tweeted about his release. “A terrible wrong is being righted – a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”

That tweet was later deleted and a new one was posted that she “fully supports survivors of sexual assault coming forward.” She explained that she had not intended to be insensitive.

This is 2021 and honest expressions of personal joy are not allowed on social media if it doesn’t support other women. Unless that person is Joe Biden and ignoring a former staffer’s very specific claims or maybe those of other politicians like Bill Clinton’s very long and mostly ignored history of abusing young women. Democrats and their spokespeople, the press, were only interested in pursuing claims against Trump. Anyway, the #MeToo movement has largely faded from public discourse. Its peak was during the Kavanaugh hearings. Cosby’s release unleashed newfound anger from alleged victims who thought they had received some justice with Cosby’s conviction.

Here’s the thing with Phylicia – she was recently appointed dean of Howard University’s fine arts school. After the celebratory tweet, Howard University, a historically black university, responded with a wagging finger.

“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,” the school wrote. “Personal positions of University leadership do not reflect Howard University’s policies.”

The school covered its posterior and separated itself from its new dean. Not to diss her but Rashad was likely hired for her famous roles like that of Claire Huxtable and here it was, coming back to bite them. Obviously, some clean-up was necessary in a timely manner in order to keep peace and financial donation flowing. Howard was quick with its statement.

Phylicia released a letter to students and parents. She explains her action and the sensitivity training she will undergo. She offered “my most sincere apology” yet it isn’t good enough for the likes of HuffPo. Her apology was described as “hallow” and one article grouses that she “did not back down from her original comments.” Deleting a tweet, or issuing an apology wasn’t enough. She wrote the letter to acknowledge her wrongdoing. Her wrongdoing, though, was simply supporting her friend. Most others in the entertainment world turned their backs on Cosby but she was loyal all along. Obviously, she believes in her own opinion. That opinion was that he was unjustly sentenced. That was exactly what the judge found, too, and why Cosby was released. The judge didn’t exonerate Cosby. Cosby was released on a technicality. Rashad wasn’t claiming Cosby’s innocence, either. Only that he was released from prison. A 73-year-old woman was voicing happiness that her 83-year-old friend was out of prison. No one is saying he’s an angel, that he didn’t do as he is accused of doing.

Something to ponder – would any of this be happening if Phylicia had simply uttered her opinion to friends or family in private, without exposing herself on social media? Would Howard University feel obligated to make a statement? I don’t think so. That’s a lesson, especially for professional people. Social media can kill a career faster than you can say, “I’m sorry.” In Rashad’s case, she is in her senior years and she’s pretty well done all she likely wants to do in show biz. She’s in academia now, if Howard University allows her to stay. As a woman, I don’t hold Phylicia’s tweet against her. I can understand where she was coming from without being insulted that she wasn’t supporting his alleged victims.

And, what about Cosby? Is he going to attempt a comeback as vindication? He might. Stranger things have happened. It didn’t work very well for Louis C.K. but who knows?

The newly freed comedian’s spokesperson Andrew Wyatt told reporters Thursday, including from The Philadelphia Inquirer, that Cosby has been “been talking to a number of promoters and comedy club owners” and “is just excited the way the world is welcoming him back.” Wyatt added to Inside Edition, “A number of promoters have called. Comedy club owners have called. People want to see him.”

Attorney Lisa Bloom, who represents several Cosby accusers, warns if Cosby attempts a comeback, he could face new defamation claims.