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After celebrating Bill Cosby court ruling, Phylicia Rashad backtracks and clarifies

A woman smiles on a red carpet
“The Cosby Show” star Phylicia Rashad, shown in 2019, welcomed Bill Cosby’s release from prison Wednesday.
(Elijah Nouvelage / Invision / Associated Press)

Phylicia Rashad was in Bill Cosby’s corner Wednesday as word spread that the comic’s 2018 conviction for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand had been overturned because of a due-process technicality.

“FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted - a miscarriage of justice is corrected!,” tweeted the actress, who for years played Cosby’s wife, Claire Huxtable, on “The Cosby Show.”

A couple of hours later, though, as a backlash began to brew, she clarified her thoughts — kind of.

“I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward,” she wrote 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.”

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It’s not the first time Rashad has defended her former costar. In a 2015 ABC News interview, she said, “This is not about the women. This is about something else. This is about the obliteration of legacy.” She said she couldn’t speak to allegations that Cosby had drugged and raped a number of women.

Cosby, who served more than two years of a sentence of three to 10 years, walked out of a Pennsylvania prison shortly after the decision Wednesday.

Earlier this month, Constand announced the upcoming release of her book, “The Moment: Standing Up to Bill Cosby, Speaking Up for Women.” She didn’t post on social media immediately after the Cosby decision was announced. Neither did fellow accusers Janice Dickinson and Beverly Johnson.

By Wednesday afternoon, Constand and her attorneys Dolores Troiani and Bebe Kivitz tweeted out a statement expressing their dismay:

“Today’s majority decision regarding Bill Cosby is 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,” the statement said in part.

The three also said they “remain grateful” to the women who came forward to tell their stories, despite an outcome resulting from what they called a “procedural technicality.”

“I’m absolutely in shock. … My stomach is lurching and I am deeply distressed about the injustice of the whole thing,” Cosby accuser Victoria Valentino told ABC News about Cosby’s release.

Bill Cosby was released from prison after the Pennsylvania high court ruled the sex assault case against him violated an earlier deal with prosecutors.

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated the decision based on a prior agreement the actor and comedian had with a prosecutor that prevented him from being charged in the criminal case. Under the prior agreement, Cosby gave depositions in a civil case filed by Constand. Those depositions were then used against him in his criminal case. Cosby reportedly settled with Constand for millions in the civil case.

Actress Debra Messing was enraged, tweeting, “To every woman who was sexual assaulted by #BillCosby my heart hurts for you today and I am full fury. It’s horrifying.”

“We live in a world where Britney Spears has people controlling her uterus, but Bill Cosby is free. Got it,” tweeted “Mrs. Doubtfire” screenwriter Randi Mayem Singer.

“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,” actress Amber Tamblyn said. “Today’s news that Cosby’s conviction is being overturned is proof we haven’t gone far enough. Our justice system MUST change.”

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A timeline of our coverage of the allegations against the star, from their resurfacing in late 2014 to the overturning of his conviction on Wednesday.

Many railed against the prosecutors and cited the importance of constitutional due-process protections.

“The 5th Amendment is an essential tool to protect the rights of the powerless in America against the powerful. Please don’t blame the Constitution for the Bill Cosby decision. Blame the prosecutors who violated the Constitution,” author Keith Boykin tweeted.

“All the smoke should be pointed squarely at the prosecutor’s office in the #Cosby case for making that colossal error,” wrote NFL veteran Damien Woody.

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Author Roxane Gay said in a series of tweets, “It is total bulls— that Bill Cosby is being released. ... He raped more than 60 women but I guess that doesnt matter? Anyway, I’m still on my abolition journey. I was fine with him staying in prison for the remainder of his life. ... And yes, the prosecutors are responsible for this. They can have some of this smoke, too.”

“This is important. Am I upset that Cosby is being let out? Yes. Did the prosecution also act badly here? Yes,” tweeted Jill Filipovic, an attorney and author. “It can be the case that the PA Supreme Court made the right decision AND that justice was not done for the women Cosby assaulted.”

‘Chasing Cosby,’ a new podcast, collects the firsthand accounts of women who say they were drugged and assaulted by Bill Cosby.

There were plenty of tweets likening the Spears and Cosby cases, as well as comparisons to legal situations involving Jeffrey Epstein, Julian Assange, Marilyn Manson and R. Kelly.

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“R. Kelly definitely calling Bill Cosby lawyers right now,” tweeted rapper Freddie Gibbs.

But most people were just plain angry. Comic and former talk-show host Rosie O’Donnell was enraged, albeit off by 10 women, when she tweeted, “I GUESS 70 WOMEN WERENT ENOUGH - f— u bill.” (Sixty women accused Cosby of sexual misconduct.)

“Bill Cosby is STILL an evil rapist .the end,” actress Rosanna Arquette wrote, following up later with, “I know many young women and men who are so Afraid to press charges against their rapist and Re traumatize themselves I am heartbroken today to hear of the news of Cosby’s release .this is sickening. My heart is with my sister survivors. We have work to do.”

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“I’m enraged, heartbroken and disgusted by Cosby’s release. I can only imagine what all his survivors must be feeling. This convicted rapist is free today because he is a man of privilege. The Patriarchy rears it’s ugly head yet again,” wrote actress Christine Lahti.

“I stand with the warriors who were traumatized by Cosby and today are being traumatized again by his mind boggling, heartbreaking, rage-inducing release. I stand with the women,” author and activist Glennon Doyle wrote.

Comic and journalist Bridget Phetasy tweeted, “As someone who experienced something very close to what Cosby’s victims did, this is upsetting, even if it is ‘legal.’ I can’t imagine how those women feel and my thoughts are with them and survivors of sexual assault everywhere today. Take care of yourself.” She later opened her DMs in case anyone wanted to vent.

“Bill Cosby is going free ... released from prison today,” tweeted Donald Trump Jr. “WOW #cosby #billcosby”

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Phylicia Rashad made headlines when she defended her embattled TV husband Bill Cosby and appeared to be dismissive of his accusers in an interview with Roger Friedman of Showbiz 411 published Tuesday.

But not everyone was 100% horrified.

“Oh s— Bill Cosby might be touching back down on the bricks. ... Hot Boy Summer!,” wrote rapper-actor Ice-T.

“Bill Cosby about to be free! City boy win summer 2021!,” tweeted comic Lil Duval, a.k.a. Roland Powell, posting a gif of a bunch of people dancing. He followed up shortly afterward with, “Here comes the ‘see this why i hate Lil duval’ tweets,” followed by a string of laughing emojis.


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