A Republican Congressman Wants to Strip Bill Cosby of His Presidential Medal

In light of sexual assault allegations and recent charges against Bill Cosby, including his admission under oath in a 2005 deposition that he obtained and used Quaaludes to drug young women he wanted to have sex with, a Republican congressman is fighting to have Cosby’s Presidential Medal of Freedom—the nation’s highest civilian honor—revoked.

At a press conference late last week, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) said firmly, “By allowing Cosby to keep his Medal of Freedom, our nation is sending the wrong message to society and future generations.”

Last year, Gosar asked President Obama to revoke the medal, but revocation is unprecedented; it’s never happened before in the 70-year history of the award, and Obama explained that he had no mechanisms to do so. Gosar’s bill would create that mechanism, giving the president the power to take back Cosby’s medal, which he was awarded in 2002 by President George W. Bush.

Karen Poesler, a leader with the anti-sexual assault group Survivors Network of those Abuse by Priests (SNAP), said in a statement:

It’s bogus for officials to claim ‘We haven’t ever revoked such an honor before.’ That’s irrelevant. A president has probably never before honored a prominent entertainer who later was accused of raping, drugging and abusing dozens of women.

She continued,

Last month, Swarthmore and Drexel University revoked similar honors. This year, other institutions including Fordham, Goucher, Baylor, the University of San Francisco, Marquette and California State University have taken similar steps. Last December, Cosby stepped down from the Temple University Board of Trustees. The University of Missouri is considering rescinding a degree it gave to Cosby. We applaud every institution that has rescinded Cosby’s honorary degrees. It’s time the federal government takes similar steps.

D.C.-based nonprofit Promoting Awareness | Victim Empowerment worked closely with Gosar on the bill. The organization previously circulated a petition asking Obama to revoke the medal, receiving support from Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. The petition received nearly 15,000 signatures.

Gosar stated that his bill would also introduce criminal penalties to be imposed on anyone who wears or publicly displays a Presidential Medal of Freedom that has been revoked.

Explaining why he put forth the bill, he said, “Revoking Bill Cosby’s Medal of Freedom won’t undo his actions or heal the wounds of his victims but it will signal to the American people that we will not tolerate such lewd behavior.”

Photo courtesy of Flickr user CWMc licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

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Lily Wujek is currently a student at Bennington College and an editorial intern at Ms.