This Mother's Day, social media became embroiled in a surprising debate about whether actress Phylicia Rashad was in some way responsible for the sexual assaults of her Cosby Show co-star Bill Cosby. It started with some fans posting tributes to Rashad and her maternal character Clair Huxtable in honor of the holiday. When some critics called Rashad and Clair "enablers" for Cosby, the discussion got heated.
"Clair Huxtable was an enabler of the longest and most prolific drug rape predator in U.S. History, Bill Cosby," one user proclaimed. "Everyone on set knew he was a sadistic predator. Everyone. Seventy-five women drugged and raped by Cosby and he got away with it because of enablers." That post has since been deleted, but the debates and speculations it raised rage on.
To be clear, there's no proof or even strong evidence that Rashad knew about Cosby's crimes or aided him with them in any way, and Clair Huxtable is a fictional character. However, Rashad did defend Cosby as recently as 2015, telling Showbiz 411: "What you're seeing is the destruction of a legacy. And I think it's orchestrated. I don't know why or who's doing it, but it's the legacy. And it's a legacy that is so important to the culture. Someone is determined to keep Bill Cosby off TV, and it's worked."
As for Cosby himself, he has been accused of sexual assault by dozens of women in dozens of cases, with suspiciously similar stories spread out across years and various settlements made out of court. However, he has only been convicted of three counts of aggravated assault of a single woman. He was sentenced to three to ten years in a Pennsylvania state prison, which he began serving in September of 2018. Many of the other allegations against him fall outside of the statute of limitations.
The conversation became muddled as some users moved to defend Rashad, who has her own incredible legacy that is important to fans. Scroll down for a look at how the speculation and the war or perspectives played out.
Neither Claire Huxtable or Phylicia Rashad are responsible for Bill Cosby's actions. She was his co worker and employee not his supervisor or co conspirator in his crimes. pic.twitter.com/e7jL2XbiAg— BLAQ MARQUEE (@BlaqMarquee) May 9, 2021
Many people commented on the power dynamic between Cosby and Rashad, feeling that it was clear she was not in a position to know about his alleged crimes. They saw the relationship between the two of them as strictly professional.prevnext
1) Claire Huxtable is a fictional character— Lina (@livelovelina93) May 9, 2021
2) Phylicia Rashad is an actress & not responsible for Bill Cosby's actions. She worked with him professionally that's it
3) Stop trying to blame a BW for this Rapist's actions. Bill Cosby is responsible for his transgressions! pic.twitter.com/bDlYYcJil6
Some also saw the outrage at Rashad as a way of deflecting blame from Cosby himself. They thought there was something nefarious about expecting a Black woman like Rashad to automatically be responsible for Cosby's actions via sheer proximity.prevnext
Meanwhile, fans pointed out Rashad's other accomplishments beyond The Cosby Show, and her proactive work to help the next generation of Black women succeed in the entertainment industry. Rashad has won multiple NAACP Image Awards and has the nickname "Mother of the Black Community" for reasons that extend well beyond The Cosby Show.prevnext
Lisa Talmadge is BLOCKED because she got the dog ass nerve to come for Phylicia Rashad on Mother's Day of all day 🤦🏽♀️🤦🏽♀️🤦🏽♀️🤦🏽♀️ pic.twitter.com/8JMqD5LKSX— Lashanda Walker (@majesticbeauty5) May 9, 2021
Don't you EVER come for our Aunties... We will bury you. #phyliciarashadMay 9, 2021
Many were horrified by the timing of the tweet calling out Rashad, which came on Mother's Day just as many fans were paying tribute to her as a maternal force on TV. They thought the backlash to this was inevitable.prevnext
4) You are quick to condemn this black woman, (without even addressing her by her real name) for acts that she had no knowledge or part of. For what reason? You will not disrespect or demean Phylicia Rashad, her career or reputation with baseless allegations! pic.twitter.com/kvadYWSVQ7— Lina (@livelovelina93) May 9, 2021
Lisa, I usually agree with you but not this time...First, Claire Huxtable was a character on a sitcom. The real-life actress who played her on The Cosby Show, Phylicia Rashad, knew nothing about Cosby's abuse of women. Cosby was a Jekyll and Hyde personality with women.— 💛🐝Ebony Edwards-Ellis💛🐝 (@Eedwardsellis) May 9, 2021
Some also thought it was either disrespectful or ignorant to refer to Rashad as "Clair Huxtable," the name of her character and not her real name.prevnext
Claire Huxtable.— Holly Robinson Peete😷🥰 (@hollyrpeete) May 9, 2021
(Full disclosure my late dad was one of the writers of her show🙏🏾 📺 ) buuuut Yeah it’s Claire hands-down.
Un-cancelable goat 🐐 TV Mom @PhyliciaRashad https://t.co/SSAA9PwqGY pic.twitter.com/svQjv4QrUS
THERE WILL BE NO Claire Huxtable or Phylicia Rashad SLANDER ON MY TL TODAY! I will block all y’all ashy asses! pic.twitter.com/LtUKIseJoy— ~Alexandria~ “AstroPetty”💛🐝 (@DOPECHICKBEATS) May 9, 2021
Fans thought that Rashad was virtually impossible to "cancel," and the idea that someone was coming for her was almost laughable.prevnext
I love how the timeline be ready to go to war for Claire Huxtable and Phylicia Rashad.— Shamar English (@english_shamar) May 9, 2021
Finally, when the dust settled many people commented on how intense the exchange had been, laughing at Twitter in general and at themselves, in some cases.prev