Bill Cosby breaks his silence with 'thank you' tweet

IT WAS, presumably, written in that sort of New Year's Eve moment when you hope the coming year is going to make things better, not worse.

As it was, there was not a lot of online sympathy for Bill Cosby when he broke his silence after being charged with sexual assault, by posting a brief message on Twitter directed at his fans and friends.

"Friends and fans, Thank You," it said.

The message by Mr Cosby, was his first utterance since he was this week charged with three counts of aggravated sexual assault. The charges relate to an alleged incident in 2004 when he is said to have drugged a female official at a Philadelphia University and assaulted her as she lay "frozen and paralysed".

The woman, Andrea Constand, has waived her right to anonymity. She now lives in Canada. Her case is the first legal action against the 78-year-old actor amid a storm of claims from women who levelled accusations against him.

Mr Cosby, best known for his role in the the long-running and hugely successful The Cosby Show sit-com, was not asked to enter a plea when he appeared his court.

But his lawyer has vowed to mount a vigorous defence and has claimed the charges against him are politically motivated. The tweet by Mr Cosby, who has 4.1m followers, was met by immediate anger on social media.

"Even after over 50 women came forward, you still question them. You are a disgrace to women," said a poster with the handle, Mug Tea Coffee.

"Wow. What about all of us ex-fans with an ounce of common sense and respect for women," asked Steve Spooner.

Some spoke out in support for the veteran comedian and actor.

"Innocent until proven guilty," wrote Laura Bilger.

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