For months, comedian Bill Cosby has come under relentless attack amid allegations that he raped dozens of women over the years after slipping them drugs. As the controversy grew, some on Capitol Hill questioned whether something should be done to strip the long-celebrated actor of a Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded him in 2002 during the Bush administration.
Today at a White House news conference, President Obama abruptly veered from an extensive defense of the Iran nuclear deal to a thinly veiled denunciation of Cosby as a serial rapist. In response to a reporter’s question of whether he would consider rescinding the medal, Obama said, “There’s no precedent for revoking a medal,” and that “we don’t have the mechanism.”
Then, after noting that he rarely publicly discusses pending civil law suits that might result in criminal charges, he made this startling pronouncement: “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.”
It was a dramatic moment as the first African American president in U.S. history denounced from the White House pulpit the conduct of one of the most prominent and (once) beloved black actors and comedians of modern times.
Cosby and his lawyers for months have dismissed as fantasy claims by more than two dozen women that they had been sexually assaulted by the actor over the past several decades – frequently after having been given knock-out drugs to make them groggy or put them to sleep.
But this ‘he said-she said’ controversy came to an end earlier this month after Cosby had admitted in a deposition giving Quaaludes to women he wanted to have sex with.
The documents, dating back to 2005, stem from a civil lawsuit filed by Andrea Constand -- one of the dozens of women who have publicly accused the comedian of sexual assault. The records were made public after The Associated Press went to court to compel their release.
Following that report, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said it was an outrage that Cosby continued to hold the highest civilian honor in America. In a statement to Politico, a spokeswoman for Gillibrand said Cosby's medal must be revoked "because we need to set a clear example that sexual assault will not be tolerated in this country."
Obama apparently agrees with the senators, but just doesn’t know what he could do to take the medal back.
The White House on Friday unveiled plans for a new effort to ramp up testing for Covid-19, which experts say is an essential part of limiting the spread of the virus. This chart from Vox gives a sense of just how far the U.S. has to go to catch up to other countries that are dealing with the pandemic, including South Korea, the leading virus screener with 3,692 tests per million people. The U.S., by comparison, has done about 23 tests per million people as of March 12.
The Air Force has scrapped a planned upgrade of its B-2 stealth bomber fleet — even after spending $2 billion on the effort — because defense contractor Northrup Grumman didn’t have the necessary software expertise to complete the project on time and on budget, Bloomberg’s Anthony Capaccio reports, citing the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer.
Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters that the nearly $2 billion that had already been spent on the program wasn’t wasted because “we are still going to get upgraded electronic displays.”
Bernie Sanders wants to eliminate $1.6 trillion in student debt, to be paid for by a tax on financial transactions, but doing so won’t be easy, says Josh Mitchell of The Wall Street Journal.
The main problem for Sanders is that most Americans don’t support the plan, with 57% of respondents in a poll last fall saying they oppose the idea of canceling all student debt. And the politics are particularly thorny for Sanders as he prepares for a likely general election run, Mitchell says: “Among the strongest opponents are groups Democrats hope to peel away from President Trump: Rust Belt voters, independents, whites, men and voters in rural areas.”
That’s how much Michael Bloomberg is spending per day in his pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination, according to new monthly filings with the Federal Election Commission. “In January alone, Bloomberg dropped more than $220 million on his free-spending presidential campaign,” The Hill says. “That breaks down to about $7.1 million a day, $300,000 an hour or $5,000 per minute.”