In July 2002, President George W. Bush awarded Bill Cosby the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
“Throughout his career, Dr. Cosby has appealed to the common humanity of his audience, rather than the differences that might divide it,” the White House press release read at the time. “Dr. Cosby’s career has included stand up comedy, the adventure show, I Spy, situation comedies and children’s programming that highlighted his interest and dedication to education.”
The president was clearly excited to recognize the famous comedian for his achievements, and Cosby was referred to as a “truly outstanding American” during the ceremony.
Nowadays, Cosby’s reputation has taken the kind of nosedive expected of someone who has been accused by many women of drugging and sexual assault. Earlier this month, it was revealed that in a 2005 lawsuit, Cosby admitted to buying Quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with, and that he gave the drug to at least one woman.
And as the evidence mounts, so do the calls for stripping Cosby of his Medal of Freedom. Earlier this month, the nonprofit group Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment (PAVE) started a petition on the White House’s “We the People” website calling on the Obama administration to rescind the honor. “We urge the administration to take the unprecedented action of revoking this award,” the petition reads.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest was later asked about the matter at a press briefing, and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill have expressed their support for revoking Cosby’s medal.
Now, PAVE is trying to enlist the support of the man who personally presented the award to Cosby.
“Mr. President, when you presented Mr. Cosby with the nation’s highest honor you had absolutely no knowledge that he would later be accused of the sexual assault of dozens of women,” Angela Rose, PAVE’s executive director, said in a letter to former President Bush. “Had you known then what you know now, I am certain you never would have allowed Mr. Cosby to receive this singular distinction…Mr. President, it is not too late to remedy this. I urge you to express your support with my organization’s ongoing effort to revoke the medal from Mr. Cosby.”
You can read the letter in its entirely below:
Rose says that prior to emailing the letter to the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas, she had previously called and emailed the Center’s media department and women’s initiative. She has yet to hear back from anyone at the Bush Center.
“I am optimistic that this will be revoked,” Rose told The Daily Beast. “It’s such an important conversation to send a message to the youth of America about the importance of consent.” (The last time Rose spearheaded a campaign against such a high-profile celebrity was in 2009, when PAVE organized protests at movie theaters in response to the “startling media and Hollywood support” of director Roman Polanski, who raped a 13-year-old and had since won an Oscar to a standing ovation.)
The Bush Center did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.