President Barack Obama said Wednesday that there is no precedent for revoking the U.S. Medal of Freedom — as some have called for him to do — given to comedian and actor Bill Cosby. But the President did outline his definition of rape.
“There’s no precedent for revoking a medal. We don’t have that mechanism,” he said.
The President then paused, and while he would not comment on the specifics of a case in which criminal or civil charges could be brought, he instead offered a definition of 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 consent, that’s rape,” Obama said Wednesday at a White House press conference.
Earlier this month, details of a 2005 lawsuit were revealed that showed that Cosby admitted to getting prescription Quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with.
Shortly thereafter, online petitions began to have Obama revoke the medal.
Former President George W. Bush awarded Cosby the medal on June 21, 2002. At the time, the White House praised Cosby for appealing to the “common humanity of his audience” through his famous sitcom and other performances.
The Cosby question came from April Ryan, Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks.
Most of Wednesday’s press conference centered on the recently-negotiated deal over Iran’s nuclear program, which will soon be under review from Congress.
Obama, who appeared to ponder whether he should answer the Bill Cosby question, rarely steps off script at his news conferences. One case when he did was early in his first term, when he made controversy by saying police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, “acted stupidly” when they arrested Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., who is a friend of Obama’s.
The comment and resulting fallout over the larger question of Gates’ arrest resulted in Obama calling for a “beer summit” between Gates and the officer at the White House.