Morgan Freeman demands retraction, apology from CNN over sexual harassment report

Yahoo Movies

Morgan Freeman isn’t taking these sexual harassment allegations lightly. A lawyer for the 80-year-old Oscar-winning actor is demanding CNN issue a retraction for its report accusing Freeman of inappropriate behavior — but the network is not backing down.

Yahoo Entertainment obtained a copy of the 10-page letter from Robert M. Schwartz addressed to Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN, which says the outlet has “defamed Mr. Freeman.”

Morgan Freeman attends PEN America’s 2018 Literary Gala at the American Museum of Natural History on May 22, 2018, in New York City. (Photo: Getty Images)
Morgan Freeman attends PEN America’s 2018 Literary Gala at the American Museum of Natural History on May 22, 2018, in New York City. (Photo: Getty Images)

“CNN has inflicted serious injury on his reputation and career,” the letter states. “At a minimum, CNN immediately needs to issue a retraction and apologized to Mr. Freeman through the same channels, and with the same level of attention, that is used to unjustly attack him.”

The attorney’s letter alleges that the report has already had “devastating consequences” for the Shawshank Redemption actor. “Mr. Freeman is being viewed in the global court of public opinion as someone akin to notorious harassers and accused rapists, such as Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey,” the letter reads. “CNN had no justification for doing that.”

It also notes those who work with Freeman have felt the need to distance themselves. “The damage CNN has inflicted is real. And given Mr. Freeman’s career and many motion picture and television commitments, it is substantial,” the letter continues. “If CNN has any decency or any allegiance to journalistic integrity, it will immediate [sic] retract the article and issue a public apology to Mr. Freeman.”

CNN quickly issued a statement saying the network stands by its story. “The unfounded accusations made by Mr. Freeman’s lawyer are disappointing and are difficult to reconcile with Mr. Freeman’s own public statements in the aftermath of the story,” the cable news network says. “CNN stands by its reporting and will respond forcefully to any attempt by Mr. Freeman or his representatives to intimidate us from covering this important public issue.”

Freeman’s attorney, Robert Schwartz, has responded to the network’s statement. “We presented CNN with objective evidence, including videotapes and on-the-record denials by the claimed ‘victims,’ that the alleged incident that gave rise to the story never happened,” he says. “We proved to CNN, beyond any doubt, that the whole story was built on fakery.  The credibility of the entire CNN attack on Mr. Freeman has now been undermined. And in choosing to ignore all of the evidence that we presented, CNN has confirmed our concerns about its reporters, its lack of oversight, and its gross misconduct in unjustifiably attacking Mr. Freeman.”

Last week, the acclaimed actor was accused of sexual harassment and/or inappropriate behavior — including “unwanted touching” — by eight women in the detailed report. The outlet also interviewed eight alleged witnesses who described a concerning pattern of behavior by Freeman on set and during promotional campaigns.

Freeman has denied the allegations and apologized (twice) to anyone he inadvertently made feel uncomfortable.

“Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am not someone who would intentionally offend or knowingly make anyone feel uneasy,” the much-awarded actor told Yahoo Entertainment in a statement last Thursday. “I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected — that was never my intent.”

Freeman issued another statement late Friday. “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,” he began. “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.”

He continued, “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 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,” he concluded. “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.”

At the moment, it doesn’t appear that the allegations are interfering with Freeman’s work commitments. On Monday, he was spotted in Georgia on the set of The Poison Rose. He stars in the film alongside John Travolta. The actor also has a handful of projects in post or pre-production, and there has been no indication of any changes.

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