President Barack Obama said Wednesday he cannot revoke comedian Bill Cosby’s Presidential Medal of Freedom, but did imply accusations lodged against him, paired with an admission he used drugs for sex, make a strong case he may be guilty of rape.
Cosby admitted in a 2005 deposition he obtained Quaaludes with the intent of giving them to women he wished to have sex with. Since November 2014, dozens of women have come forward to accuse the star of drugging and/or raping them.
The President was asked during Wednesday’s White House press conference if Cosby should be stripped of the award, which he received in 2002 from President George W. Bush.
Obama said there was “no precedent” for revoking the nation’s highest civilian honor, according to Page Six, and he has a policy of not commenting on specific cases, before going off the script:
“I’ll say this. 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 consent, that’s rape. And I think this country, any civilized country, should have no tolerance for rape,” Obama said.
A petition to revoke Cosby’s medal is currently being led by Kirsten Gillibrand, and partially reads:
“The presidential medal of freedom is the highest honor award to an American civilian. Bill Cosby’s name does not belong among this distinguished list. Cosby admitted to procuring drugs to have sex with women without their consent. We cannot yet give his accusers their day in court, but we can fight back in the court of public opinion.”
The group Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment (PAVE) also sent a letter to Press Secretary Josh Earnest Wednesday, urging the President to revoke the award.