For years, there have been rumors circulating that Oscar winning actor Morgan Freeman is dating his step grand-daughter E’Dena Hines. Though not related by blood, the age difference between 74-year-old Freeman and his 27-year-old grand-daughter made headlines on many major news outlets. Now, for the first time since the rumors of the romance started four years ago, both Morgan and Hines are speaking out.

In a statement to TMZ, the Invictus star said that the countless stories of a romantic relationship between he and Hines are absurd.

“The recent reports of any pending marriage or romantic relationship of me to anyone are defamatory fabrications from the tabloid media designed to sell papers. What is even more alarming is that these fabrications are now being picked up by the legitimate press as well,” Freeman said.

Hines also released a statement in an attempt to set the record straight. “These stories about me and my grandfather are not only untrue, they are also hurtful to me and my family,” she said.

What makes the recent statements made my Freeman and Hines so puzzling, is that it took so long for them to address the shocking allegations.

The rumor of the Freeman-Hines love affair began in 2008, when the actor’s marriage to costume designer Myrna Colley-Lee crumbled. Reports surfaced that an affair between Freeman and Hines was the reason for the divorce.

In June 2009 the National Enquirer published “Incest Shocker,” a cover story that alleged that Freeman had been having a decade long affair with his granddaughter. The tabloid stated that, according to “sources,” the affair with Hines “began when she was a teen,” and “not only contributed to his split from Myrna Colley-Lee, his wife of 25 years, but also led to his breakup with his longtime mistress, former schoolteacher Mary Joyce Hays.”

The two have attended several press events and movie premieres over the past few years, showing what many assumed to be a public display of affection. For example, in 2008 Freeman arrived at the premiere of The Dark Knight hand-in-hand with Hines.

If the rumors of an affair with his grand-daughter are not true, why did Freeman stay silent for so many years? According to his rep, the actor did not speak on the matter because he didn’t want to “dignify these stories by commenting,” but now he feels compelled to speak out after the reports were picked up by various “mainstream media” outlets.

Follow Chris Witherspoon on Twitter at @WitherspoonC