Update: Morgan Freeman's attorney, Robert M. Schwartz, is demanding CNN retract their story describing eight accounts of sexual misconduct against the actor, according to the New York Times. In a 10 page document, Schwartz writes that CNN's piece was biased and a "product of malicious intent, falsehoods” that resulted from "an absence of editorial control, and journalistic malpractice."
CNN responded to the letter, which also called for a public apology from the network, denying any unethical journalistic practices. The network defended the reporting of Chloe Melas, one of the two journalists who reported the story and conducted the interviews with the seven other accusers (Melas being the eighth herself).
Original story follows.
Yet another revered Hollywood figure, Morgan Freeman, has been accused of sexually harassing women who worked for him or with him for years, CNN reported on Thursday. In an investigation which took place over months, several women described a pattern of the Oscar-winning actor making comments about their bodies and attire, and staring at them in a way that made them uncomfortable. In at least one instance, he subjected a young production assistant to unwanted touching, the report says. In a statement issued shortly after the report went live, Freeman said "I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected — that was never my intent."
The CNN story's coauthor Chloe Melas writes that she began the investigation into Freeman's behavior after his comments to her during a press junket for the film Going in Style, when Melas was six months pregnant.
"I wish I was there," he said on camera, while looking her up and down. Off camera, he also told her, "You are ripe." This prompted Melas to begin speaking to other reporters, crew members on Freeman's films, and employees of Revelations, his production company. Eight women said Freeman had harassed them in some way, and eight said they had witnessed him behaving inappropriately toward women.
A manager at Revelations said that when Freeman was in the office, he would "come over to my desk to say hi and he'd just stand there and stare at me. He would stare at my breasts." When coworkers brushed off his behavior as "just Morgan," she began to wear loose clothing anytime she knew he would be there.
A male employee said he once saw Freeman massage a female intern on the shoulder, making her squirm away from him. Others described him asking women to twirl for him, or getting really close to their faces as he stared at them during a party.
A production assistant on Going in Style said he repeatedly tried to lift up her skirt to see if she was wearing underwear, and he would put his hand on her back and rub it.
"It was constant comments about the way I looked," the PA said.
One of the most surprising elements of this story is that Freeman's partner in Revelations is Lori McCreary, a very public supporter of #MeToo and Time's Up. As co-president of the Producers Guild of America, she publicly stated that Time's Up helped the PGA create protocols to fight harassment and discrimination against women. At the same time, women at Revelations said they had no human resources employee or other staffer to whom they could turn when Freeman harassed them.
"Morgan did things in a way that an older more established person can get away with because they have that power," a PA told CNN.
Freeman has been involved in a scandal before. In 2009, tabloids alleged that he was romantically involved with his step-granddaughter, E’Dena Hines. Freeman issued a statement denying the relationship in 2012, when rumors circulated that they were engaged. In 2015, Hines was murdered by her boyfriend, whose lawyer told the court earlier this year that she had told him about her grandfather's "sexually inappropriate" relationship with her.
Freeman's rep has not yet returned Refinery29's request for comment on this story.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).