Freeman ‘to sue’ over harassment claims
MORGAN Freeman has come out fighting against a CNN report, which suggested he had a history of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour towards women.
The Oscar winner's lawyers are demanding a retraction from the network, threatening a lawsuit over a report by entertainment journalist Chloe Melas which detailed complaints from women about Freeman's alleged improper behaviour, ranging from unwanted touching to suggestive comments.
The 10-page letter, sent by the actor's legal team to CNN, reportedly claims the story has defamed and "inflicted serious injury" on Freeman's reputation and career.
"At a minimum, CNN immediately needs to issue a retraction and apologise 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 Freeman's legal representative Robert M. Schwartz. Melas began investigating the story after she alleged Freeman acted inappropriately towards her during a 2017 movie junket for the film, Going in Style, which also starred Alan Arkin and Michael Caine.
The reporter, who was six months pregnant at the time, said that Freeman, 80, looked her up and down and made several remarks along the lines of "I wish I was there" - which was captured on video - and "You're ripe".
In the footage, Caine and Arkin, who have not commented on the scandal, appear visibly shocked by Freeman's behaviour.
"That same day that he made those comments to me, I shared them with some family and friends, because I was shocked," Melas told the New York Times.
In response, Freeman's lawyer stated: "One cannot know if that was the product of something as innocuous as Ms. Melas' having misheard what Mr. Freeman said, her runaway self-centredness, or her search for a sexual harassment perpetrator to 'expose' so that she could grab attention and advance her career.
"One also has to ask whether Ms. Melas would have had the same unjustified over-reaction if the remark had come from Michael Caine or Alan Arkin."
It continues: "Regardless, nothing about what Mr. Freeman said - or any 'look in his eyes' - supports Ms. Melas' takeaway. Ms. Melas nonetheless made a conscious decision to treat Mr Freeman's comment as a form of sexual harassment, and then set out on a crusade to vilify him."
The letter also refutes allegation that Freeman ever harassed his partner Lori McCreary, which she has vehemently denied.
This comes after another woman named in the story, Tyra Martin, said her comments were "misrepresented" and that she never accused the actor of improper conduct, nor deem his behaviour as inappropriate.
"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 humour."
The star 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," Freeman said.
"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."