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Phylicia Rashad apologizes for Bill Cosby tweet in letter to Howard University students, reports say

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Phylicia Rashad, who played Bill Cosby's wife Clair Huxtable on "The Cosby Show," is apologizing to Howard University students and parents after applauding the Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Cosby’s sex assault conviction

Rashad, who was recently named Howard University's Dean of Fine Arts, sent a letter Friday to students and parents to give a "sincere apology" for her tweet that "caused so much hurt," according to reports from CNN and NBC's "Today."

"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," she wrote.

Phylicia Rashad issued an apology letter to Howard University parents and students after applauding the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for releasing Bill Cosby.
Phylicia Rashad issued an apology letter to Howard University parents and students after applauding the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for releasing Bill Cosby.

The court ruled Wednesday that an agreement with a previous prosecutor meant Cosby could not be charged in the case. Rashad lauded the court’s decision as “a terrible wrong being righted” in a now-deleted tweet.

“A miscarriage of justice is corrected," Rashad added on Twitter, alongside a photo of Cosby, who has since been released from state prison.

In a follow-up tweet, Rashad wrote, "I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward," adding that her "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," the actor added. "My heartfelt wish is for healing."

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Cosby, 83, was convicted in 2018 of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, a Temple University employee, in 2004 at his suburban Philadelphia estate.

Howard University issued a statement in response to the actress's tweet saying the personal opinions of leadership do not reflect the university's.

"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 read. "We will continue to advocate for survivors fully and support their right to be heard."

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Cosby was charged in late 2015, when a prosecutor armed with newly unsealed evidence — his damaging deposition from Constand's lawsuit — arrested him days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired.

Constand said in a joint statement with her attorneys Dolores M. Troiani and Bebe Kivitz that the decision was "not only disappointing but of concern in that it may discourage those who seek justice for sexual assault in the criminal justice system from reporting or participating in the prosecution of the assailant or may force a victim to choose between filing either a criminal or civil action.”

Cosby has served more than two years of a three- to 10-year sentence at a state prison near Philadelphia. He had vowed to serve all 10 years rather than acknowledge any remorse over the encounter with Constand.

Background:Bill Cosby released from prison after sex assault conviction overturned by Pa. Supreme Court

Bill Cosby release news shocks. For survivors of abuse, it's 'very triggering.'

While Rashad praised the news of Cosby’s release, other celebrities condemned the move.

"Fresh Prince" star Janet Hubert called Rashad's tweets "terribly wrong."

"Phylicia what are you thinking!!!" Hubert tweeted. "EVERYONE knew what he was doing back then. How could you NOT! Get your umbrella sista here comes the (expletive) shower. I am outraged that he has been released."

"To every woman who was sexual assaulted by #BillCosby my heart hurts for you today and I am full fury," actor Debra Messing tweeted. "It’s horrifying."

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Dylan Farrow, who accused her adoptive father Woody Allen of sexually molesting her when she was a child, labeled the news as a "perfect example of how, not just our society, but our justice system continually fails survivors of sexual assault."

"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. "Many survivors will look at the events of today and decide it’s not worth it; that even when justice is served, it can be taken away."

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Actor and activist Amber Tamblyn tweeted: "I don't want to hear anything about how cancel culture ruined men's lives during the MeToo era reckoning for women and survivors. How we went too far."

"Today's news that Cosby's conviction is being overturned is proof we haven't gone far enough. Our justice system MUST change," she added.

More: It's been two years since the #MeToo movement exploded. Now what?

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In a statement to the Associated Press, Anita Hill, chair of The Hollywood Commission, said the "ruling demonstrates how failures in our criminal justice systems make accountability for sexual assault impossible."

Hill added: "Systems that ensure accountability for powerful abusers, protect workers and prevent agreements that shield abusers are urgently needed in entertainment and other industries.”

Actor Josh Gad wrote on Twitter: "Victims of sexual assault deserve better than whatever the (expletive) just happened in PA."

Author Ibram X. Kendi said he "believe(s) the survivors."

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Ana Navarro-Cárdenas, political strategist and commentator, took to Twitter to thank the dozens of women who have come forward with allegations against Cosby.

"Thank you to all those who had the courage to speak up and seek justice," she wrote. "It was not in vain. He served two years. We all know what he did. (And) they made it easier for other women to come forward."

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Actor Rosanna Arquette shared she "know(s) so many young women and men who are so Afraid to press charges against their rapist and Re traumatize themselves" on Twitter.

"I am heartbroken today to hear of the news of Cosby’s release," she added, "this is sickening. My heart is with my sister survivors. We have work to do."

"WHEN will things get better for women and girls regarding sexual assault, sexism, misogyny and ageism?" Kathy Griffin tweeted. "What will it take? So discouraged."

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Cosby was the first celebrity tried and convicted in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

Contributing: Maria Puente; Associated Press, Elise Brisco

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bill Cosby: Phylicia Rashad apologizes in letter to students, reports