( ENSPIRE NEWS ) Obama Sounds Off On Cosby Rape Allegations
Barack Obama spoke publicly about the sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby for the first time on Wednesday, condemning drugs and rape without referencing the besieged comedian by name.
Asked at a White House press conference if he would consider revoking the presidential medal of freedom bestowed to Cosby, the president said he would not comment on ongoing cases. But Obama then proceeded to issue a forceful statement that obliquely referenced the latest revelations from Cosby’s ongoing legal battle.
“If you give a woman – or a man, for that matter, without his or her knowledge – a drug, and then have sex with that person without consent, that’s rape,” Obama said.
More than 20 women have accused Cosby, 77, of sexually assaulting them. He has never been criminally charged for such crimes.
Cosby admitted in 2005 that he had obtained quaaludes with the intention of giving them to young women with whom he wanted to have sex, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press last week.
“Any civilized country should have no tolerance for rape,” Obama said on Wednesday.
The comments arrived abruptly in the middle of expansive remarks on the Iran nuclear deal, when a reporter asked a multi-part question. The reporter asked whether or not the president might revoke Cosby’s presidential medal of freedom, which was awarded by George W Bush in 2002.
Obama said there was no precedent for revoking the medal and that he does not comment on open cases, before speaking about rape.
Last week, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said he did not know whether revoking the medal of freedom was even possible. There is no formal procedure for taking back the honor, because it would be an unprecedented move.
To award the presidential medal of freedom, a small list of recommendations is made, cut down to a group of about five or six people and then sent to the president, who gives final approval.
“Bill Cosby is a gifted comedian who has used the power of laughter to heal wounds and to build bridges,” then president George W Bush said during the award ceremony. “By focusing on our common humanity, Bill Cosby is helping to create a truly united America.”
During a 2005 deposition revealed by the AP, Cosby said he had obtained seven prescriptions for quaaludes.
“You gave them to other people?” he was asked.
“Yes,” the comedian replied.
The sexual assault prevention group Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment (Pave) created a petition on WhiteHouse.gov to have the honor revoked. It has received more than 89,000 signatures; the White House must respond if its reaches 100,000.
The allegations against Cosby resurfaced in October 2014, after comedian Hannibal Buress spoke about them during a standup show in Cosby’s hometown of Philadelphia, and video of the show went viral. A month later, Cosby refused to respond to questions about the allegations in an interview with NPR.
The re-airing of these claims has prompted dozens of women to publicly accuse Cosby of sexual misconduct, including some incidents that occurred several decades prior.
Cosby voted for Obama in at least one election and said it was a “wonderful” experience.
At the landmark Ben’s Chili Bowl diner in Washington DC, a longtime fixture of the city’s black business community, a sign states: “Who eats free at Ben’s: – Bill Cosby – The Obama Family.”