Howard University has disavowed a sympathetic tweet on comedian Bill Cosby and his abrupt release from prison on Wednesday by his TV wife, Phylicia Rashad, the incoming Dean of the prestigious university’s fine arts college, US media reported.
Rashad played Clair Huxtable for all eight seasons on ‘The Cosby Show’ from 1984 to 1992.
Howard said in a statement that Rashad’s initial tweet about Cosby “lacked sensitivity towards survivors of sexual assault,” reported CNBC.
Rashad’s Twitter post came shortly after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned Cosby’s conviction for indecent assault of a then Temple University employee, Andrea Constand.
The Washington, DC, historically black university added that “personal positions” of her and other school leaders “do not reflect Howard University’s policies”.
Rashad had tweeted “Finally”, in capital letters with a string of exclamation marks shortly after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned Cosby’s conviction.
“A terrible wrong is being righted — a miscarriage of justice is corrected,” added Rashad who played Cosby’s wife on both the NBC sitcom ‘The Cosby Show’ and on CBS’s ‘Cosby’.
Rashad’s tweet was widely criticised as unsympathetic to the scores of women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault or harassment.
The tweet also raised concerns online from many about how she might handle sexual assault allegations in her role as the new dean of the re-established and renamed Chadwick A Boseman College of Fine Arts.
Rashad later followed up with a second tweet that addressed that backlash.
“I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward,” she wrote.
“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.”
But that tweet drew more criticism of Rashad, who in her prior defences of Cosby had called some of the claims of abuse against him "orchestrated".
“You can’t support survivors of physical assault and then cheer when a sexual predator gets off on a technicality. Very disappointing,” wrote a person in response to Rashad’s second tweet.
Howard University, in its statement on Rashad, which was also tweeted, said, “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,” the statement said.
“We will continue to advocate for survivors fully, and support their right to be heard,” the university added.
“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.”
Cosby, who turns 84 next month, was three years into a 10-year sentence when he was freed.