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Group calls on Obama to strip Bill Cosby’s Presidential Medal of Freedom

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A sexual assault prevention nonprofit is petitioning the White House to rescind Bill Cosby’s Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment (PAVE) launched a petition Wednesday on the White House’s “We the People” site calling on President Obama to take away Cosby’s medal, the highest civilian honor in the country, which was awarded to him by former President George W. Bush in 2002.

{mosads}”That award is the most prestigious and honorary award that you can achieve and earn,” Barbara Bowman, a PAVE ambassador, told ITK in an interview. “The fact that [Cosby] would have an award like that, with other honorable people that have earned it and deserve to keep that award, is beyond comprehension. Especially since he received it deceptively, knowing full well what he was doing.”

In 2005 court filings were made public Monday, Cosby admitted he gave quaaludes, a sedative drug, to women with whom he wanted to have sex.

Multiple women have accused “The Cosby Show” star of sexual misconduct over the years. Cosby, 77, has repeatedly denied the allegations and has never gone to court over any of them.

“We urge President Obama to take the unprecedented action of revoking this award,” PAVE’s petition states.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday he hadn’t seen the petition and “hasn’t heard any discussion of taking that step” regarding Cosby.

“As a general matter, this administration has been focused on countering sexual assault and doing so in a variety of settings,” Earnest said, citing efforts to stamp out sexual assault in the military and on college campuses.

Stressing that sexual assault is an issue Obama “feels strongly about,” Earnest said he wasn’t sure if it was legally possible to revoke the Medal of Freedom from Cosby.

ITK exclusively reported in November, when the accusations against Cosby first resurfaced, that the veteran entertainer was “unlikely” to have his Medal of Freedom revoked, according to a former White House aide.

“I don’t think it’s ever happened, and it’s probably unlikely to happen, but there’s no precedent for it,” Aram Bakshian, who was responsible for the in-house selection process for Medal of Freedom recipients during the Reagan administration, told us at the time. Other recipients of the Medal of Freedom include Meryl Streep, Helen Hayes, Elie Wiesel, Yo-Yo Ma and Sidney Poitier, among many others.

“The analogous thing is, although it should be given to people of high moral character, it’s awarded for aspects of their work or contributions,” Bakshian said. “Similarly, you would almost have to prove that their work or contribution — that it wasn’t Cosby on his TV series — that you could have a technical reason for rescinding it.”

— Jordan Fabian contributed to this report.


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