A new bill would give President Obama the power to strip embattled comedian Bill Cosby of his Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“I am sick and tired of watching the rapid decline of our culture right in front of our eyes. It’s time to reclaim our nation’s moral compass,” Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said of the legislation he introduced Friday.
“Our criminal justice system will ultimately determine whether Cosby serves jail time,” Gosar said in prepared remarks Thursday. “But Cosby’s admission to drugging women in order to satisfy his sexual desires places him outside the bounds of whom we should admire in our society.”
Cosby, an American icon as comedian, actor, and father figure since the 1960s, has fallen from favor since 2002, when President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his cultural contributions.
The former star of TV’s “The Cosby Show” and “I Spy” faces allegations of repeated sexual misconduct.
To date, more than 50 women have accused Cosby of sexual assault. In a 2005 deposition that recently came to light, the comedian admitted to acquiring Quaaludes to drug women and then compel them to have sex.
Cosby, 78, is currently charged with second-degree sexual assault, stemming from a relationship with a Temple University employee in 2004. If convicted of the felony, Cosby could face up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
He pleaded not guilty to what his lawyer dismissed on ABC’s “Good Morning America” as “political” charges.
Pressure mounted to strip Cosby of his Presidential Medal of Freedom since more allegations surface over the summer.
But President Obama has said he was powerless to act if he decided to do something.
“There’s no precedent for revoking a medal,” Obama said in July. “We don’t have that mechanism.”
Though Obama declined to comment on the Cosby case specifically, he strongly condemned sexual assault.
“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,” he said.
Established in 1963, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor.
By allowing Cosby to keep the medal, Gosar said, “America is sending the wrong message to future generations.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama would consider the legislation but declined to comment further.
Gosar has worked to build support for his bill since last summer, when he learned the president said he was powerless to revoke the medal.
“To continue to honor [Cosby] would be an affront to women nationwide, particularly those who were victims of his heinous acts,” Gosar said.