President Barack Obama said Wednesday that “there’s no precedent for revoking” Bill Cosby’s Presidential Medal of Freedom after multiple women have come forward and accused the comedian of raping them.
“We don’t have that mechanism,” Obama said during a press conference at the White House.
While Obama said he did not want to comment on an ongoing investigation, he added that any civilized country should not permit rape.
“If you give a woman, or a man for that matter, without his or her knowledge, a drug, and then have sex with that person without their consent, that’s rape,” Obama said. “And this country, any civilized country, should have no tolerance for rape.”
A White House petition calling on Obama to revoke the medal had earned over 10,000 signatures by Wednesday afternoon. Angela Rose, executive director of anti-sexual assault group PAVE, the organization behind the petition, said in a statement that Obama had effectively called Cosby a rapist in his comments.
Cosby was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, in 2002.
Several women have come forward and said that Cosby drugged and raped them decades ago — allegations Cosby has denied. The Los Angeles Police Department said earlier this month that it had opened an investigation into sexual assault allegations against Cosby. Documents from a 2005 civil lawsuit against the actor released earlier this month seem to indicate Cosby admitted to obtaining quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with.