Cosby was controversially released from prison last week following a ruling from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court
Rashad, who serves as dean of Howard University’s fine arts college, wrote a message of support to Cosby on social media after the comedian’s conviction for sexual assault was overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
You can read an explanation of the decision to overturn Cosby’s conviction here, covering why he was released, what happens now, and whether he could be in-line for a pay-out.
Rashad, who played Claire Huxtable, the wife of Cosby’s character, on The Cosby Show, shared a picture of Cosby after his release from prison was announced, alongside the caption: “FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted – a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”
The tweet has since been deleted, but had drawn criticism from followers and other public figures prior to its removal, including from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star Janet Hubert.
In a follow-up post, Rashad wrote that she supports “survivors of sexual assault coming forward” and said that her “post was in no way intended to be insensitive to their truth”.
Howard University subsequently criticised the initial tweet, writing: “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.”
In a statement issued by Cosby through spokesperson Andrew Wyatt, the disgraced comedian said: “Howard University you must support ones Freedom of Speech (Ms Rashad), which is taught or suppose to be taught everyday at that renowned law school, which resides on your campus.”
Access unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video Sign up now for a 30-day free trial
Many reports have characterised the reason for Cosby’s release from prison as being due to a technicality, something the comedian denied in the statement.
“NO TECHNICALITY — IT’S A VIOLATION OF ONES RIGHTS & WE THE PEOPLE STAND IN SUPPORT OF MS PHYLICIA RASHAD,” he said.
News of Cosby’s release from prison prompted outrage among many, including author Dylan Farrow, who said the decision to overturn Cosby’s sexual assault conviction was “a travesty”.
“For those who question myself and other survivors about the reasons and timing of coming forward, I hope that today will serve a teachable moment on empathy and why it takes years – if ever – for someone to discuss their abuse,” she wrote in a Twitter statement.
If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, you can contact your nearest Rape Crisis organisation for specialist, independent and confidential support. For more information, visit their website here.