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Howard University dean Phylicia Rashad apologizes to students after voicing support for Bill Cosby's release

Controversy over Bill Cosby's prison release
Controversy over Bill Cosby's prison release 09:27

Howard University's dean of fine arts and former actress Phylicia Rashad apologized to students and parents on Friday for voicing her support for Bill Cosby's release from prison, according to an email obtained by CBS News. Cosby was released on Wednesday after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his sexual assault conviction. 

"This week, I tweeted a statement that caused so much hurt in so many people - both broadly and inside the Howard community," wrote Rashad, who played Cosby's wife on "The Cosby Show." "I offer my most sincere apology. I have since removed that upsetting tweet." Multiple Howard students confirmed to CBS News that they received the email. 

"I am sorry," she added. "I intend to earn your trust and your forgiveness." 

After news broke of Cosby's release on Wednesday, Rashad tweeted "FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!" Her post received heavy social media backlash from critics who said her comments were insensitive to survivors of sexual assault, prompting her to delete the tweet and issue a new statement. 

"Personally, I know from friends and family that such abuse has lifelong residual effects," she said later that day. "My heartfelt wish is for healing." 

In her Friday email, Rashad said her comments "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," she wrote. 

Rashad's role as dean became effective July 1. In the wake of her comment, Howard issued a statement saying that Rashad's initial tweet "lacked sensitivity towards survivors of sexual assault," and that her opinions do not reflect the university's policies.

Rashad said Friday that in coming weeks, she will "engage in active listening and participate in trainings to not only reinforce University protocol and conduct, but also to learn how I can become a stronger ally to sexual assault survivors and everyone who has suffered at the hands of an abuser." 

"Thank you for voicing your concerns, for speaking your truth and for holding leaders accountable for our actions and words," Rashad added. 

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