"There's no precedent for revoking a medal. We don't have that mechanism," President Obama said today during a press conference on the deal the U.S. made with Iran. The President wasn't talking about nuclear weapons, though. He was talking about Bill Cosby. Cosby, the comedian who confessed to drugging women so he could have sex with them, holds the Presidential Medal of Freedom. According to the White House, the medal is the "Nation's highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors." Over 25 women have accused Cosby of raping them over the last four decades. Cosby received the honor from George Bush in 2002 along with Katherine Graham, the former publisher of the Washington Post, and 10 others. Oprah Winfrey, Walter Cronkite, and Ella Fitzgerald are among other entertainers who have been honored with the medal. Obama followed up, "I'll say this: if you give a woman — or a man, for that matter — without his or her knowledge a drug and then have sex with that person without consent, that's rape. And I think this country, any civilized country, should have no tolerance for rape." On July 9, the advocay group PAVE sent a petition to the White House to encourage the President to revoke Cosby's medal. The petition, which includes a video of PAVE executive director Angela Rose, has close to 11,000 signatures and support from senators.
"This medal was given to [Bill Cosby] under false pretenses," Rose says. "We need to send a strong message to the youth of America to talk about the importance of consent. Bill Cosby admitted to procuring drugs to use against women that he wanted to have sex with and that behavior cannot be celebrated." This past Monday, Joseph C. Phillips, an admirer and former co-star of Cosby's, published "Of Course Bill Cosby Is Guilty!," an essay in which he described his process of coming to terms with his former idol's transgressions. "I was angry with Bill. He had money, fame, and power; he was a walking aphrodisiac! Why? I was also angry at myself for falling for the okey-doke, of putting Bill on a pedestal. Something changed inside me during that drive; call it the last gasp of a mockingbird," Phillips wrote. He conceded that while he will never forget Cosby's "brilliance, his wisdom, or his legacy," his esteem for Cosby is sullied. Whoopi Goldberg also changed her mind about Cosby. For a long time, Goldberg had called Cosby "innocent until proven guilty." On Tuesday, she spoke with a legal expert on The View. "It looks bad, Bill," she said. "Either speak up or shut up." George Bush's choice of Medal of Freedom recipients has been criticized previously. In 2004, Democrats expressed anger that Bush honored former Army general Tommy Franks and former C.I.A. director George Tenet, who he believed "played pivotal roles," in the conflict in Iraq. Despite their invovlement in the war, however, neither Franks nor Tenet have been accused of civillian crimes.