Obama Pressured to Take Back Bill Cosby's Presidential Medal of Freedom

Calls mount for Obama to revoke the honor after comedian's deposition unsealed.

ByABC News
July 9, 2015, 12:57 PM

— -- President Obama is under mounting pressure to revoke a Presidential Medal of Freedom bestowed on embattled comedian Bill Cosby by former President George W. Bush in 2002. But even if he wanted to take it away, does he have the presidential power to make it happen?

A budding petition launched Wednesday on whitehouse.gov urging the president to take action had collected about 2,000 signatures as of this morning. At least 100,000 signatures are required for the White House to provide an official response to the petition.

PAVE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to sexual assault prevention and survivor empowerment, began the online petition Wednesday.

“The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest award bestowed on civilians for their contributions to society. Bill Cosby does not deserve to be on the list of distinguished recipients,” the petition states. “We urge the administration to take the unprecedented action of revoking this award.”

When asked Wednesday whether the president is considering taking action, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest indicated it hadn’t reached the Resolute desk, referring to the desk Obama uses in the Oval Office.

“I haven't, at this point, heard any discussion of taking that step,” Earnest told reporters during the daily press briefing.

The comedian, 77, was honored with the medal 13 years ago today, on July 9, 2002.

Cosby lawyer Marty Singer did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Earnest ticked off a number of steps President Obama has taken to counter sexual assaults, but admitted he was unsure whether the president had the authority to revoke the medal. He pledged to look into the issue, although a White House spokesman indicated not to expect any updates on that question today.

U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno unsealed excerpts this week from a 2006 deposition revealing the famous comedian admitted he obtained Quaaludes, a sedative, in the 1970s so that he could provide the drugs to young women he wanted to have sex with. Cosby’s lawyers objected to a question about whether the women knew what he was giving them, so he did not answer that.

During an interview in December, President Obama declined to comment directly on accusations against Cosby, telling Univision it was “important to not focus on one case.”

Earnest told reporters Wednesday he had not spoken with the president about news of Cosby’s comments in the unsealed deposition.