Phylicia Rashad Apologizes to Howard University Community After Supporting Bill Cosby's Prison Release

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Phylicia Rashad Apologizes to Howard University Community After Supporting Bill Cosby's Prison Release
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Phylicia Rashad has issued an apology to the Howard University community after voicing her support for Bill Cosby following his prison release earlier this week.

On Friday, Rashad, 73, wrote a letter addressed to the students and parents at the school, where she studied and now serves as the dean of the College of Fine Arts, multiple students told CBS News.

"This week, I tweeted a statement that caused so much hurt in so many people - both broadly and inside the Howard community," she wrote in the letter, according to HuffPost. "I offer my most sincere apology. I have since removed that upsetting tweet."

Rashad continued, "My remarks were in no way directed towards survivors of sexual assault. I vehemently oppose sexual violence, find no excuse for such behavior, and I know that Howard University has a zero-tolerance policy toward interpersonal violence."

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She also noted that she will "engage in active listening and participate in trainings" over the next few weeks "to learn how I can become a stronger ally to sexual assault survivors."

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Rashad's initial tweet, which has since been deleted, celebrated her Cosby Show costar's release from prison on Wednesday after he served nearly three years of a three to 10-year sentence for aggravated indecent assault.

Cosby was convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault in 2018 after Andrea Constand said he had drugged her and sexually assaulted her in her Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, home in 2004. More than 60 women have also accused the actor of sexual misconduct. He and his defense have denied the allegations.

"FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted — a miscarriage of justice is corrected!" Rashad wrote after the news broke.

Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic; Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Phylicia Rashad, Bill Cosby

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After receiving backlash for the post, Rashad tweeted again hours later, this time stating her support for sexual assault survivors.

"I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward," she wrote in a statement on Twitter. "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."

Also on Wednesday, Howard University released their own statement voicing support for sexual assault survivors, and expressing that Rashad's remarks were personal and therefore separate from her role at the university.

"Survivors of sexual assault will always be our first priority," the statement began. "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."

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The university added, "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," the statement concluded.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.