President Barack Obama has weighed in on the Bill Cosby sex scandal. The legendary comedian has been accused of drugging and raping dozens of women. According to NBC News, Obama told members of the White House press corps Cosby’s actions fell under the definition of rape.
“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,” Obama said.
Cosby’s actions also fit the Department of Justice’s new definition of rape, which was revised in 2012.
“Because many rapes are facilitated by drugs or alcohol, the new definition recognizes that a victim can be incapacitated and thus unable to consent because of ingestion of drugs or alcohol,” said the Department of Justice.
Victim’s rights groups and some legislators have called for Cosby’s Medal of Freedom to be revoked, but Obama said there was no way to rescind the award once it had been handed out.
“There is no precedent for revoking a medal. We don’t have that mechanism,” Obama said.
Cosby was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2002 by President George W. Bush.
Angela Rose, executive director of the victims’ group PAVE which organized a petition to revoke Cosby’s Medal of Freedom, said allowing the comedian to retain the award sends the wrong message.
“The Medal of Freedom embodies our nation’s values. Allowing Cosby to maintain this coveted symbol suggests that we as a society support coercive sexual behavior,” said Rose in an NBC News article. “Revoking the medal will send a powerful message to America’s youth about the critical importance of consent, which is a freely given, enthusiastic, verbal and sober ‘yes,’ not the absence of a ‘no.'”
The petition, which has collected 11,000 signatures, was also supported by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
“Someone who admitted to using drugs for sex no longer deserves the nation’s highest honor,” said Glen Caplin, a spokesman for Gillibrand.
Even though more than 25 women, including former models Beverly Johnson and Janice Dickinson, have come forward with claims they were drugged and raped by Cosby, he still had his staunch defenders. However, some of them are now turning against him.
Whoopi Goldberg, a co-host of The View, had previously said Cosby was “innocent until proven guilty.” But on Tuesday she said, “All of the information that’s out there kind of points to guilt,” according to CNN.
Actor Joseph C. Phillips, who appeared as Cliff Huxtable’s son-in-law, has also turned against Cosby, after initially refusing to believe the allegations against a man he idolized. However, after discussing the issue with a former friend, who burst into tears when recalling her experience with Cosby, he changed his mind.
“I felt for my friend, for the violation of her trust, loyalty, and body,” said Campbell in an online column. “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.”
Phillips closed his column by begging Cosby to withdraw from public life and preserve what’s left of his tattered reputation.
“Bill, you have a family who loves you, a wife who is devoted to you; you have more money than you can spend. Please, go live a quiet country life. Allow those of us who truly love you to preserve just a bit of our enchantment,” Phillips said.