Less than a week after CNN published a detailed report of sexual harassment allegations surrounding Morgan Freeman, the actor’s lawyer has demanded the outlet not only retract the story, but apologize to Freeman.
CNN’s exposé, published on May 24, alleges a troubling trend in Freeman’s work life of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior toward women. At least eight women shared their accounts of harassment and inappropriate conduct allegedly perpetrated by Freeman, while another eight offered commentary as witnesses.
Freeman declined to comment for CNN’s story, but a statement from his representative to The Hollywood Reporter read, “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.”
Now, Freeman’s legal team claims the CNN story has wrongly damaged his career and reputation.
In a 10-page letter obtained by The Hollywood Reporter and addressed to CNN president Jeff Zucker, Freeman’s attorney Robert M. Schwartz demanded a retraction and apology.
“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.
Schwartz’s letter claimed that their independent review of CNN’s piece found problems with the accounts shared by three of Freeman’s accusers and that the veracity of the CNN article is questionable.
Schwartz’s letter suggested Freeman has already faced “devastating consequences” from being viewed as someone similar to “notorious” accused harassers and rapists “such as Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey.”
In response to the letter, CNN stood beside their reporting, saying in a statement to THR, “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.”
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,” they said.
In addition to the statement to THR on May 24, Freeman commented again the following day, CNN reports.
“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,” said “The Shawshank Redemption” actor. “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.”
[Photo: Morgan Freeman arrives at the after party for a screening of CBS Films’ “Last Vegas” at Haze Nightclub at the Aria Resort & Casino at City Center on October 18, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. By Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic]