Bill Cosby's Medal of Freedom likely safe, Obama suggests

U.S. President Barack Obama said he wouldn't comment on the specific allegations against Bill Cosby, but that anyone who gives someone a drug without their knowledge and then has sex with them without their consent is committing rape.

Whoopi Goldberg stands down as Bill Cosby's biggest public defender

U.S. President Barack Obama rejected the idea of revoking Bill Cosby's Presidential Medal of Freedom because of sexual misconduct allegations. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

U.S. President Barack Obama said he wouldn't comment on the specific allegations against Bill Cosby, but that anyone who gives someone a drug without their knowledge and then has sex with them without their consent is committing rape.

During a news conference at the White House that focused mostly on the Iranian nuclear deal, Obama was asked about possibly revoking Cosby's Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian honour. 

Obama said there was no mechanism for revoking the honour and that he wouldn't comment on details of a specific case.

However, Obama went on to add: "I'll say this: 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."

 He also said that "any civilized country should have no tolerance for rape."

Meanwhile, Cosby's biggest public defender, Whoopi Goldberg, is backing off her support after getting some legal advice Tuesday on the daytime talk show The View.

Goldberg said that "all of the information that's out there kind of points to [Cosby's] guilt."

Goldberg defended Cosby last week after the release of court documents showed the comic admitted in 2005 to obtaining Quaaludes with the intent of giving them to women he wanted to have sex with. More than two dozen women have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct in the past four decades, and many of them alleged that he drugged them before sex.

A day after defending him on the air, Goldberg angrily reacted to people who attacked her on social media. She said she believed in a person's innocence until proven guilty in a court of law.

So The View brought on ABC News legal analyst Daniel Abrams Tuesday to explain that because of the statute of limitations in various states, it is very unlikely that any of the women making accusations against Cosby will be able to take him to court.

Essentially, the only recourse for many of these women is the court of public opinion, Abrams said.

"I mean, it is impossible to ignore the consistency of these stories," Abrams said.

Legal reality 'a shock' to host

Goldberg said the fact that the passage of time prevents many of these women from taking their accusations to court is "a shock to me."

Whoopi Goldberg is backing off her support of Bill Cosby after getting some legal advice on the daytime talk show The View. (Andy Kropa/Invision/Associated Press)

"I can't say any more 'innocent until proven guilty,' can't say that anymore," Goldberg said, "because there's no way to prove it. We are the only proof that folks have. We're the only backup they have."

She urged viewers to contact their state representatives regarding laws about statutes of limitations on sexual assault cases.

There was no immediate comment from Cosby's representatives. The comedian used his Twitter feed in December to thank Goldberg for supporting him.

Smithsonian to post disclaimer

The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington has also announced that beginning Wednesday staff will post a sign outside an exhibition of art owned by Bill and Camille Cosby.

The notice explains to visitors that the show is "fundamentally about the artwork and the artists who created them, not Mr. Cosby."

The museum came under fire for going ahead with the exhibition while sexual misconduct allegations mounted against Cosby. The exhibit, which opened in November, also features images of and quotes from Cosby.

With files from Reuters, CBC News