Updated: Thursday, May 24, 2018, 1:24 p.m EDT: Morgan Freeman has spoken up about the multiple accusations of inappropriate behavior, issuing a brief apology Thursday morning shortly after CNN broke the story.
“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 statement read, according to Deadline.
Earlier Thursday morning, CNN noted that at least eight women have accused the iconic actor, who received the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award in January, of inappropriate behavior and harassment.
Morgan Freeman, known for his iconic voice and storied career, is the latest Hollywood star to be accused of inappropriate behavior and harassment on the heels of the #MeToo movement.
In a detailed investigative report, CNN interviewed 16 people, eight of whom accused the 80-year-old actor of what some called harassment and what others called inappropriate behavior. Another eight say they witnessed Freeman’s misconduct.
These 16 people together described a pattern of inappropriate behavior by Freeman on set, while promoting his movies and at his production company Revelations Entertainment.
Of those 16, seven people described an environment at Revelations Entertainment that included allegations of harassment or inappropriate behavior by Freeman there, with one incident allegedly witnessed by Lori McCreary, Freeman’s co-founder in the enterprise, and another in which she was the target of demeaning comments by Freeman in a public setting. One of those seven people alleged that McCreary made a discriminatory remark regarding a female candidate for a job at the Producers Guild of America, where McCreary is co-president.
Four people who worked in production capacities on movie sets with Freeman over the last ten years described him as repeatedly behaving in ways that made women feel uncomfortable at work. Two, including the production assistant on “Going in Style” whose skirt he allegedly attempted to lift, said Freeman subjected them to unwanted touching. Three said he made public comments about women’s clothing or bodies. But each of them said they didn’t report Freeman’s behavior, with most saying it was because they feared for their jobs. Instead, some of the women — both on movie sets and at Revelations — said, they came up with ways to combat the alleged harassment on their own, such as by changing the way they dressed when they knew he would be around.
In the case of the Going in Style production assistant, the young woman alleged that Freeman subjected her to unwanted touching as well as comments about her body and clothes on an almost daily basis. Freeman, she said, would touch and/or rub her lower back.
During one incident, Freeman “kept trying to lift up my skirt and asking if I was wearing underwear.” He never actually succeeded in lifting her skirt, but he would touch it and try to lift it, she would move away and then he’d try again.
“Alan [Arkin] made a comment telling him to stop. Morgan got freaked out and didn’t know what to say,” she noted.
There was also another case in which he allegedly sexually harassed a senior member of the production staff, as well as her female assistant, on the set of the movie Now You See Me.
“He did comment on our bodies. ... We knew that if he was coming by ... not to wear any top that would show our breasts, not to wear anything that would show our bottoms, meaning not wearing clothes that [were] fitted,” she said.
CNN also reached out to several people who worked for or with Freeman. Some, naturally, praised the renowned actor, saying that they never saw anything untoward. Others, however, knew exactly what the network was talking about.
Several other times during this investigation, when a CNN reporter contacted a person who had worked with Freeman to try to ask them if they had seen or been subjected to inappropriate behavior by an actor they had worked with — not initially even naming the actor they were asking about — the person would immediately tell them they knew exactly who the reporter had in mind: Morgan Freeman. Some of those people were sources for this investigation while others declined to comment further or did not want what they said used in this story.
CNN emailed Freeman’s spokesperson for comment on the allegations, following up with an email detailing the list of accusations against the actor, but the spokesperson never responded. CNN also reached out to a spokesperson for Lori McCreary, the co-founder of his production company Revelations Entertainment, but got the same silence.
The network also noted that allegations against Freeman did not just spring from his company or on movie sets. Three entertainment reporters also accused Freeman of making inappropriate comments during publicity events for films.
One of those reporters was CNN reporter Chloe Melas, who is the co-author of the article exposing the allegations against Freeman.
Melas was six months pregnant at the time Freeman allegedly made inappropriate comments to her. He allegedly shook Melas’ hands and looked her up and down before saying more than once some variation of “I wish I was there.” He also allegedly told her, “You are ripe.”
Melas reported the interaction to her supervisor.
Afterward, Melas reported what had happened to her supervisor, who instructed her to inform CNN human resources. According to Melas, she was told that CNN HR contacted their counterparts at human resources for Warner Bros., which produced and distributed the movie, and which like CNN is owned by Time Warner. Melas said she was also told that Warner Bros. HR could not corroborate the account because only one of Freeman’s remarks was on video and the Warner Bros. employees present did not notice anything. Melas and her supervisor agreed that she would not cover the movie.
Asked for comment, a spokesperson for Warner Bros. confirmed that what Melas was told was accurate, but declined to comment further. A representative for Caine declined to comment. A representative for Arkin said he was not available for comment.
After the encounter with Freeman, Melas started making calls to see if other women had experienced anything similar, or whether this was an isolated incident. She soon learned that other women had similar stories — and so she, and later her co-author, began this months-long reporting process.