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After Phylicia Rashad ignited a social media firestorm with a tweet celebrating Bill Cosby's release from prison, the former Cosby Show star and incoming university dean is attempting to defuse the situation.
Wednesday morning, when news broke that Cosby was being released from prison following a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that overturned his conviction, Rashad, the incoming dean of Howard University's College of Fine Arts, tweeted, "FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!"
Rashad's comments, which fellow social media users could not directly reply to, were met with immediate backlash, with many pointing out that Wednesday's ruling didn't exonerate Cosby of aggravated indecent assault. A number of others tweeted out various versions of "Bye, Phylicia," a callback to the '90s reference "Bye, Felicia," from the movie Friday. While still others called out Rashad's initial tweet and tagged Howard University.
Paras Griffin/Getty Images Phylicia Rashad
About three hours after her first tweet — and following Cosby's actual release — Rashad seemed to respond to critics in a new post.
"I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward," she tweeted. "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."
The actress and educator's tweet did little to stop continued commenters slamming her for defending the 83-year-old, who dozens of women have accused of sexual misconduct over the years. (Cosby has maintained his innocence, including in an interview from prison with Black Press USA in 2019.)
Pennsylvania's Supreme Court overturned the conviction, ruling that District Attorney Kevin Steele violated terms that previous DA and former Donald Trump impeachment lawyer Bruce Castor made with Cosby originally to not charge him back in 2005 following allegations from Andrea Constand. The initial decision forced Cosby to give a deposition in a civil case in which he made "incriminating statements" without Fifth Amendment rights protections, according to various reports about the ruling, including CBS News.
Rashad has been supportive of her former costar in the past. Back in 2015, while speaking about his character to ABC News, she called him "generous," "kind," and "inclusive." "What has happened is declaration in the media of guilt — without proof," she told an ABC news reporter at the time. Asked about the first time she heard the allegations of drugging or sexual assault by Cosby, Rashad answered, "I had never that before and I can't even speak to those things, and don't want to."
Howard University said on Twitter that Rashad's initial comments "lacked sensitivity towards survivors" and that the personal views of its leaders don't reflect University policy.
See some of the reactions to Rashad's initial tweet about Cosby's release below.