Phylicia Rashad Voices Controversial Support for Bill Cosby After Prison Release, More Celebs React
Bill Cosby was released from prison Wednesday after being convicted on sexual assault charges in 2018
Cosby's sexual assault conviction was vacated on Wednesday after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that an agreement he made with a previous prosecutor should have precluded him from being charged in the case, PEOPLE confirmed.
The actor, 83, was convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault in 2018 after Andrea Constand said he had drugged her and sexually assaulted her in her Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, home in 2004. He had been sentenced to three to 10 years, and served more than two years of that sentence.
Following the news of his release, Cosby Show alum Phylicia Rashad praised Cosby, writing on Instagram and Twitter, "FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted - a miscarriage of justice is corrected!"
Though comments on her posts have been disabled, the actress promptly faced backlash for her support of Cosby, who, in addition to his previous conviction, has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 60 women.
"As a rape survivor your post hurt deeply," one Twitter user wrote. "It lacked any empathy for women especially rape victims. It sends a message that rape is okay with you as long as it is your friend doing it."
"Phylicia Rashad being excited about Bill Cosby's release is definitely giving 'I know my brother has a problem, but he's a good man,'" added another. "Phylicia and all the Rashads of the world would rather sacrifice a woman and girls than actually do the right thing."
In a later tweet, Rashad clarified: "I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward. 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."
Other celebrities lamented Cosby's release, citing it as a regression following the #MeToo movement that gained traction around the time of Cosby's conviction, as well as that of movie producer Harvey Weinstein and other powerful figures in Hollywood.
"I am furious to hear this news," actress and writer Amber Tamblyn tweeted. "I personally know women who this man drugged and raped while unconscious. Shame on the court and this decision. #TimesUp #MeToo."
Rosanna Arquette wrote in her own tweet, "My heart and soul are with all my sister survivors at this moment."
"I'm enraged, heartbroken and disgusted by Cosby's release," The Good Fight star Christine Lahti shared. "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."
Singer Stella Parton, the younger sister to Dolly Parton, questioned in her post, "why is it that serial rapists and sexual predators are given a free pass by those supreme Law institutions?"
"How can the Supreme Court overturn something after a conviction on a factual occurrence?" she wrote. "Oh, excuse me, if you are male and have enough money and influence you can even be President no matter how corrupt you may be. Bill Cosby is just one of many. Look at Marilyn Manson!"
Comedian Lane Moore took the opportunity to discuss how Cosby's release may impact other survivors of sexual violence going forward, noting in a subsequent tweet that she is a survivor herself.
"I never wanna hear 'well did you report it?' again," she said. "60 women accused Bill Cosby, and even with 60 accusers we took years to convict, and now he's going free anyway. there are no consequences for rape and rapists know that. so let's be real: rape is fully legal in this country."
She continued, "what is the point of making rape illegal if no one actually cares if anyone gets raped, no one cares if rapists ruin countless lives, no one actually prosecutes/convicts rapists, & even on the slim chance a rapist is convicted, he's set free. just say rape is legal because it is."
See more reactions to the Bill Cosby news below:
"THE F--- IS THIS BULLS---," Aisha Tyler tweeted alongside an article about Cosby's release.
Rosie O'Donnell posted on Twitter, "GUESS 70 WOMEN WERENT ENOUGH - f--- u bill."
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.