President Barack Obama has commented on the controversy surrounding comedian Bill Cosby, saying that the actions alleged in recently unsealed testimony constitute rape. Although Obama didn’t mention Cosby by name, he broached a situation that was similar to those revealed in Cosby’s 2005 deposition, where the comedian admitted to giving women Quaaludes and then sleeping with them.
“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,” Obama said (via Gawker). “And I think this country, any civilized country, should have no tolerance for rape.”
President Obama was asked about the Cosby allegations after a sexual assault awareness group launched a petition demanding that Cosby’s Presidential Medal of Freedom – one of the three highest civilian awards – be revoked. Obama said that there is no “mechanism” in place to allow him to rescind the honor, and that doing so would represent an “unprecedented” move. The president declined to speak further about the Cosby allegations, saying that it was better not to comment on pending legal matters.
Cosby was given his Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002 by then-President George W. Bush. While Obama admitted he is unable to revoke the honor, other politicians like New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill have backed efforts to have Cosby’s honor removed.
“[Gillibrand] supports this group’s effort because we need to set a clear example that sexual assault will not be tolerated in this country, and someone who admitted to using drugs for sex no longer deserves the nation’s highest honor,” a rep for the New York senator told Politico.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, which displays artwork owned by Cosby as part of an exhibit, already posted a disclaimer regarding their affiliation with the comedian. “The National Museum of African Art is aware of the recent revelations about Bill Cosby’s behavior. The museum in no way condones this behavior,” the Smithsonian wrote on its website.
“Our current ‘Conversations’ exhibition, which includes works of African art from our permanent collection and African American art from the collection of Camille and Bill Cosby, is fundamentally about the artworks and the artists who created them, not the owners of the collections.” Cosby had also donated over $700,000 to the museum, The Huffington Post writes.