CNN is under attack for a story about Morgan Freeman that his attorney says unjustly goes after the actor and misrepresents the claims from women who allege that the actor sexually harassed them, reports Variety.
A CNN investigation published on Thursday detailed eight women’s sexual and verbal harassment claims against Freeman. The women said Freeman created “unsafe” and “toxic” work environments. Freeman’s attorney Robert M. Schwartz wants the news agency to print a retraction for the story saying that the article suffers from “…malicious intent, falsehoods, slight-of-hand, an absence of editorial control, and journalistic malpractice.”
Entertainment reporter Chloe Melas, co-author of the report, claimed that while she was six months pregnant, she interviewed Freeman at a press junket for the film, Going in Style, where she says the actor told her: “Boy, do I wish I was there. You are ripe.”
In a letter to CNN’s president Jeff Zucker, Schwartz counters that claim saying that Melas had a personal bias that led her to bait and prod victims and witnesses into submission.
“The problem with Ms. Melas’ account, which infected everything that she and CNN thereafter did, is that her version of the interview is false,” Schwartz wrote.
“It is based on her imagining that Mr. Freeman had said or done anything to harass her. However, there is substantial evidence that Ms. Melas imagined an incident, or exaggerated a non-malicious remark wildly out of proportion to reality, to give her a basis to go after Mr. Freeman and cause him the grave harm that CNN’s story has inflicted.”
Amid a whirlwind of #MeToo allegations against Freeman, the actor and narrator released a second statement insisting that while he might have exhibited inappropriate behavior with women, but he never assaulted anyone throughout his 50-year career.
Calling his behavior “misplaced compliments” and “humor,” Freeman said he’s “devastated” that his life’s work “is at risk of being undermined, in the blink of an eye,” and that it’s not right to equate his actions with “horrific incidents of sexual abuse.”
“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 in a statement released by his publicist Stan Rosenfield. “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 […] But I also want to be clear: I did not create unsafe work environments. 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.”
The fallout is affecting his career.
The city of Vancouver released Freeman as the voice of its public transit system. And his SAG-AFTRA lifetime achievement award may be revoked. VISA is the latest company to drop Freeman from their advertising campaign.
Schwartz also noted that Chicago WGN-TV’s Tyra Martin, who is cited in the article as a victim, said that CNN misrepresented her comments.
“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,” Schwartz writes. “CNN also needs to retract the portions of the story that concern Lori McCreary and apologize to her for defaming and injuring her.”
There has been no comment as of yet from CNN on the matter.