Morgan Freeman has suffered major consequences since being accused of sexual harassment by eight different women last week, including his long-standing relationship with VISA coming to an end and the Screen Actor’s Guild’s consideration of revoking his Lifetime Achievement Award.
After suffering such intense blow-back mere days after the initial CNN report broke, Freeman is demanding the news organization retract their claims, according to The Hollywood Reporter. In a 10-page letter addressed to Jeff Zucker, president of CNN, Freeman’s lawyer claims the story has defamed and “inflicted serious injury” on his career and reputation.
“At a minimum, CNN immediately needs to issue a retraction and apologize to Mr. Freeman through the same channels, and with the same level of attention, that it used to unjustly attack him on May 24,” reads the letter from attorney Robert M. Schwartz. It also details inconsistencies within the story.
“Of the three people CNN identified as being a ‘victim,’ the first, CNN’s own Chloe Melas, had no reasonable basis to have interpreted what Mr. Freeman said or did at the Going In Style interview last year as having been directed at her or as any form of harassment. The videotape confirms that his statement had nothing to do with her and was not harassing. And an independent third party, the Warner Bros. Human Resources Department, investigated her claim and concluded that it was not supported by the facts.
“The second person CNN identified, Tyra Martin, has gone on record twice since CNN published the article to state that CNN misrepresented what she said to CNN and that Mr. Freeman did not harass her.”
“The third person CNN identified, Lori McCreary, told CNN that Mr. Freeman never harassed her. And as to CNN’s gratuitous sideswipe at Ms. McCreary herself, yet another independent party investigated the claim when CNN raised it, and found it to be meritless.”
The Oscar-winner himself has released two statements on the matter, making his initial statement one day after the CNN report broke.
“Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am not someone who would intentionally offend or knowingly make anyone feel uneasy. I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected — that was never my intent.”
The actor gave a more lengthy apology this weekend.
“I am devastated that 80 years of my life is at risk of being undermined, in the blink of an eye, by Thursday’s media reports.”
“All victims of assault and harassment deserve to be heard. And we need to listen to them. But it is not right to equate horrific incidents of sexual assault with misplaced compliments or humor.”
“I admit that I am someone who feels a need to try to make women — and men — feel appreciated and at ease around me. As a part of that, I would often try to joke with and compliment women, in what I thought was a light-hearted and humorous way.”
“Clearly, I was not always coming across the way I intended. And that is why I apologized Thursday and will continue to apologize to anyone I might have upset, however unintentionally.”
“But I also want to be clear: I did not create unsafe work environments. I did not assault women. I did not offer employment or advancement in exchange for sex. Any suggestion that I did so is completely false.”