President Obama would “take a look” at proposed legislation that would revoke Bill Cosby's Presidential Medal of Freedom if Congress approved it, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told ABC News.
Arizona Republican Congressman Paul Gosar today introduced a measure to “affirm the power of the president” to revoke the medal -- bestowed on Cosby in 2002 by George W. Bush -- in light of a criminal charge stemming from an alleged 2004 indecent assault and dozens of other allegations of sexual misconduct dating back decades.
Cosby's legal team has repeatedly denied the sexual misconduct allegations as well as the criminal charge he faces in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The DA in Los Angeles recently declined to prosecute two other cases.
"The charge by the Montgomery County District Attorney's office came as no surprise, filed 12 years after the alleged incident and coming on the heels of a hotly contested election for this county's DA during which this case was made the focal point," Cosby's legal team said in a statement. "Make no mistake, we intend to mount a vigorous defense against this unjustified charge and we expect that Mr. Cosby will be exonerated by a court of law."
Rep. Gosar’s bill is the first legislative attempt to strip the comedian of the nation’s highest civilian honor. Gosar began work on the bill in July, and consulted with PAVE when crafting the legislation, he said in a news conference Thursday on Capitol Hill.
PAVE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to sexual assault prevention and survivor empowerment, today endorsed the legislation. The group has been urging the president to take action since July through an online petition campaign and meetings with administration officials.
“It's something that Congress will have to consider,” Earnest said of the measure. “We'll take a look at the proposal if Congress takes a vote on it and we'll let you know if the President chooses to sign it." It’s unclear how much support it has among lawmakers.
Obama said in July that he doesn’t have a “mechanism” to revoke the Presidential Medal of Freedom and that there is not a precedent for doing so.
Earnest said that one of the White House's concerns would be establishing a new precedent of “undoing” medals conferred by previous presidents, a practice that could inject politics into the process.
“Symbolic commemorations are always difficult to deal with,” Earnest said. “But I think the President was quite clear in that news conference in showing his own personal disgust for the kind of behavior that Mr. Cosby is accused of, and you know the President made clear that he doesn't have any tolerance for it.”
Gosar said he isn’t concerned about the possibility of the bill setting a precedent for presidents to strip honors bestowed by their predecessors.
“Time doesn’t stand still,” he said. “Their application should stand on its merits.”
Earnest said he’s certain the president is aware of the criminal charge brought against Cosby on Dec. 30 but has not spoken with him about the case.
ABC News' Ben Siegel contributed reporting.