May 7, 2018 / 10:44 PM / 2 years ago

Kennedy Center rescinds top prizes bestowed on Bill Cosby

FILE PHOTO: Bill Cosby reacts while being notified a verdict is in at the Montgomery County Courthouse in his sexual assault retrial, in Norristown, Pennsylvania, April 26, 2018. Mark Makela/Pool via Reuters

(Reuters) - The Kennedy Center trustees have voted to rescind Bill Cosby’s Kennedy Center Honors and Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, two of the nation’s top artistic prizes, following his sex assault conviction, the organization said on Monday.

“As a result of Mr. Cosby’s recent criminal conviction, the Board concluded that his actions have overshadowed the very career accomplishments these distinctions from the Kennedy Center intend to recognize,” the Washington D.C. organization said in a statement.

The Kennedy Center joins several U.S. universities that have revoked honorary degrees bestowed upon the 80-year-old “The Cosby Show” star.

A Pennsylvania jury last month found the comedian guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former director of operations for the Temple University women’s basketball team. Cosby had pleaded not guilty and his attorneys said they would appeal. [nL1N1S41OB]

Last week, Hollywood’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Oscars, expelled Cosby. [nL1N1SA1RF]

Cosby was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors, which recognize contributions to American culture, in 1998 and the Mark Twain Prize in 2009.

The moves to rescind Cosby’s distinctions come as U.S. institutions grapple with how to respond to sexual misconduct allegations against prominent public figures they have honored or taken money from in the past, sparked by the #MeToo social movement.

Cosby was known as “America’s Dad” for his role on NBC’s top-rated “The Cosby Show” in the 1980s, and was embraced by many civic, educational and artistic institutions as a figure who transcended racial divides.

A Cosby spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment on the Kennedy Center decisions.

Reporting by Eric Kelsey; editing by Bill Berkrot

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