Following the release of court documents which reveal Cosby admitting he purchased and gave women Quaaludes, a powerful sedative with a reputation as a date rape drug, many — including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) — have demanded that Bill Cosby's Presidential Medal of Freedom be revoked. Gillibrand told Politico that the honor should be retracted "because we need to set a clear example that sexual assault will not be tolerated in this country." At a White House press conference on Wednesday, when asked about the issue, President Obama made it clear that he shared Gillibrand's views. As he discussed the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Bill Cosby, Obama made the following statement about rape and sexual violence in America:
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. And I think this country, any civilized country, should have no tolerance for rape.
Although, according to the president, the honor cannot be rescinded, his comments about rape and consent couldn't have been more perfect. This should hardly come as a surprise considering initiatives by Obama's administration to end rape on college campuses — and, considering how spot on Obama's comments regarding other celebrities are. Obama has demonstrated a surprising amount of wisdom when it comes to pop culture personalities in Cosby's world, with comments both grave and humorous.
In August 2014, following the death of comedian Robin Williams, the president released the following heartwarming statement:
[H]e was one of a kind ... he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets.
Two months earlier, upon the death of Ruby Dee, Obama honored the actress with a eulogy in which he described Dee's surprising role in his marriage:
Michelle and I will never forget seeing her on our first date as Mother Sister in Do the Right Thing.
At the December 2014 Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, which honors prominent figures in performing arts, Obama humorously praised Tom Hanks — among other Hollywood talents — and demonstrated surprising knowledge of the actor's decorated career:
Tom has flown a rocket to outer space, he's fallen in love with a mermaid, he's faced down Somali pirates, (and) mooned the president of the United States. I'm glad he got that last one out of his system before this evening.
Of singer Al Green, Obama said, "I can sing a little, but I cannot sing like Al Green — nobody can sing like Al Green." Earlier this month, Obama also discussed the band The Black Keys via his official Twitter when asked about his favorite band/artist, and a humorous little exchange with The Black Keys' Twitter soon followed:
The Black Keys are yet to perform at the White House. And as for anyone who might doubt POTUS' taste, well, they can download the Keys' tracks here. In June, Obama even allegedly hosted a party with 500 celebrity guests and a performance by Prince. A White House spokesman confirmed that the party had been paid for by Obama and his family.
Sure, Obama's comments regarding comedian Bill Cosby were made in an entirely different context from his comments on other celebrities. Nonetheless, when it comes to knowing what's what and who's who in the all-important world of pop culture, it's certainly impressive that the president's executive knowledge spans beyond the sphere of politics and policy. His awareness of celebrities and popular culture in general have arguably kept him better connected to Americans (millennials in particular) than any other president in U.S. history.
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