Phylicia Rashad has long been a defender of Bill Cosby, who played her husband on The Cosby Show, but her recent glee over his release from prison has her facing new backlash. On Wednesday, Pennsylvania's highest court vacated the 83-year-old's sexual assault conviction, making him a free man, and Rashad, 73, immediately took to Twitter to express her feelings on the news. "FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted—a miscarriage of justice is corrected!" she wrote in a now-deleted tweet, posting a photo of Cosby, per CNN. Rashad, just named in May as dean of Howard University's College of Fine Arts, soon found herself in a storm of controversy. The New York Post reports that the hashtag #ByePhylicia began circulating, as both current and former students took Rashad to task for her tweet and called for Howard University to fire her.
"Rashad should not be an educator," tweeted one alum and rape survivor who, in a piece for the Independent, added that, "as a former student of Howard ... I would not have felt safe under her guidance." Later Wednesday, Rashad walked back her initial post, tweeting, "I fully support survivors of sexual assault coming forward. My post was in no way intended to be insensitive to their truth." And in a letter penned to Howard University parents and students, Rashad noted, per CNN: "My remarks were in no way directed towards survivors of sexual assault. I vehemently oppose sexual violence, find no excuse for such behavior, and I know that Howard University has a zero-tolerance policy toward interpersonal violence." Howard University's take: "Survivors of sexual assault will always be our priority. While Dean Rashad has acknowledged in her follow-up tweet that victims must be heard and believed, her initial tweet lacked sensitivity towards survivors of sexual assault." (Read more Phylicia Rashad stories.)