Kathie Lee Gifford is not defending Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, but she is explaining why she reached out to the pair, who have both been separately accused of sexual misconduct.
“I don’t want to throw everybody on the same manure pile. Being a jerk is not the same as being a rapist. It just isn’t,” the Today show star, 64, told Andy Cohen for Sirius XM’s Radio Andy on Wednesday.
“Yes, I’ve been friends with Bill for a long, long time,” she said when asked if she reached out to Cosby. “Harvey Weinstein was a friend of mine for 30 years. I called him and left a message,” added Gifford, who stated that she has been “sexually harassed, sexually abused and date raped” since she started in the business as a teenager.
“I just want people to know I don’t judge them. I don’t like what they do, but God knows their hearts and there’s hope for them,” she said.
“You can’t call yourself a friend if the first minute there’s trouble, you run. That’s called a fair-weather friend and that’s not a friend at all,” the mother of two continued.
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Though Gifford is friends with both Weinstein, 65, and Cosby, 80, she clarified her stance against their alleged actions.
“I hope people are not misunderstanding this. I’m not saying that that kind of behavior is in any way acceptable. It isn’t, and it’s horrible, and as a woman who has experienced it, it’s awful,” she said. “But can we at least look at each individual case and see it for what it is? And be merciful to people who are sorry for what they’ve done?”
Concluding, “If we stop having mercy as a part of our vocabulary, Andy, our world will completely die.”
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Actresses in Hollywood, including Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek and Uma Thurman, have condemned Weinstein since The New York Times and The New Yorker reported in October about decades of alleged sexual harassment and assault. Since then, over 60 women have come forward to accuse the producer of sexual misconduct.
Weinstein has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex, as well as claims that he retaliated against women who rebuffed him.
Meanwhile, more than 50 women have accused Cosby of drugging and/or sexually assaulting them decades ago, but he has denied all the allegations.
The comedian stood trial in 2017 after being accused of drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, mansion in January 2004. In June, a Pennsylvania judge declared a mistrial after the jury announced that they were “hopelessly deadlocked” after deliberating for days.