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Phylicia Rashad Says She Was Misquoted in Condemning Bill Cosby's Accusers; "This Is About the Obliteration of Legacy"

See everything she said

Sadie Gennis

The Cosby Show matriarch Phylicia Rashad has broken her silence on the mounting sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby.

"I don't want to become part of the public debate," Rashad told Showbiz 411 when a reporter approached her on Tuesday at a lunch for Selma and asked her to weigh in on the over 20 women who have accused Cosby, Rashad's onscreen husband of over a decade, of sexual assault and misconduct.

However, Rashad did say she loves Cosby and never saw the behavior alleged by the women who say they were drugged, raped or sexually harassed by the comedian.

"Forget these women," Rashad allegedly told the outlet. "What you're seeing the destruction of legacy. And I think it's orchestrated. I don't know why or who's doing it, but it's the legacy. And it's a legacy that is so important to the culture."

According to Showbiz 411, Rashad also dismissed claims against Cosby made by supermodels Beverly Johnson and Janice Dickinson, saying "Oh, please," when their names came up.

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As for her feelings about Cosby's wife Camille, Rashad defended Camille's decision to stay with Cosby, saying she doesn't believe Camille would ever have looked the other way as Cosby harassed and abused women. "This is a tough woman, a smart woman. She's no pushover," Rashad said.

"Someone is determined to keep Bill Cosby off TV," Rashad added. "And it's worked. All his contracts have been cancelled."

The actress also defended Cosby's decision to stay silent about the allegations, claiming this is in part because he is too proud to defend himself and partially because there is nothing he can say at this point to counter the numerous allegations against him. "If he spoke now, what do you think the media would do with it?" Rashad noted.

So far, three women have filed a lawsuit against Cosby charging him with defamation after his lawyer, Martin Singer, publicly branded them liars. Last month, Cosby reportedly hired private investigators to dig up dirt on his 20-some accusers.

Rashad's remarks, and especially the phrase "forget these women," immediately came under fire from those who interpreted what she said as uncaring and dismissive.

On Wednesday, Rashad appeared to do some backpedaling, claiming that she was misquoted by Showbiz 411. When asked by ABC News about her "forget these women" comment, Rashad said, "That was a misquote. That is not what I said. What I said is this was not about the women. It's about something else. It's about the obliteration of legacy." She continued, "I am a woman. I would never say such a thing."

As for the accusations against Cosby, Rashad told ABC News that "I can't even speak to those things, and don't want to."

Meanwhile, Showbiz 411 published a second story that did not address the accuracy of the quotes in its first report, but stated, "She is allowed her opinion. Give her credit for defending someone she knew for a dozen years at the height of his fame."

Watch Rashad's ABC News interview here: