Currently, there is simply no way a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom can be stripped of that honor, and that, according to one GOP lawmaker, needs to change. In fact, Arizona Representative Paul Gosar plans to introduce legislation on Friday in order to strip current recipient and disgraced comic, Bill Cosby, of the prestigious award. The award, which is the nation’s highest civilian honor, was bestowed upon Cosby in 2002 by President George W. Bush. But in light of the accusations of rape and sexual assault by more than 50 women, Gosar firmly believes that Cosby is no longer entitled to such a high honor.
In July, President Barrack Obama was approached about stripping Cosby of his award, and responded that he has no power to do so. Once Gosar realized that, he began working with sexual violence prevention groups such as PAVE (which stands for “promoting awareness, victim empowerment”) in order to change that, and has gone into action.
The bill Gosar is proposing would establish a formal process for revoking the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Gosar did maintain that, of course, Cosby must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but he has based his legislation on the fact that Cosby has already admitted, in a sworn deposition taken in 2005, that he obtained Quaaludes, a strong prescription sedative, for the purpose of drugging women with whom he wanted to have sex. That in itself should be enough, Gosar says, to remove the honor from Bill Cosby.
“As a standing person with the Presidential Medal of [Freedom], you can’t have that. You just can’t have that,” Gosar said on Wednesday. “That award should be so encompassing for the whole aspect of your life, and there’s no room to have a bad apple.”
Steven Smith, a spokesman for Representative Gosar, said that the lawmaker is still collecting co-sponsors for his bill from both parties, and that he should have a more definitive headcount for the public by Friday.
“Obviously, this is not a partisan issue and we welcome all co-sponsors,” Smith said.
It seems as though disgust over Cosby’s admitted and alleged behavior may be the thing that pulls a divided Congress together.
According to the Huffington Post, Gosar has not yet spoken with party leaders, the Senate, or the White House about his proposed legislation. Instead, he explained, he wants the bill to be “bottom up,” building support and momentum as it moves throughout the legislative process.
In response to the bill, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Thursday that of course President Obama would look at the bill if passed by Congress. However, Earnest hinted that the president may have some concerns with the bill.
“Commemorations are always difficult to deal with,” he said during the daily briefing. “You certainly wouldn’t want a scenario where this kind of process could get infused with politics and you have successive Congresses in the future passing pieces of legislation to try to undo medals conferred by previous presidents that happened to be in the other party.”
He was quite clear that, regardless of any action taken by President Obama, the alleged behavior committed by Bill Cosby is not tolerated by the president. Obama showed “his own personal disgust” for Cosby’s alleged actions in a July press conference, Earnest said, adding, “The president made clear that he doesn’t have any tolerance for it.”
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is bestowed only by the President of the United States and recognizes individuals who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” It was established in 1963 and replaced the earlier Medal of Freedom that was initially established by President Harry S. Truman in 1945 to honor civilian service during World War II.
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