Morgan Freeman’s lawyer Robert M. Schwartz has written a lengthy statement to CNN president Jeff Zucker, demanding that CNN apologize and retract the May 24 story that accused Freeman of the sexual harassment of eight women.
The bombshell CNN report, written by An Phung and Chloe Melas, accused Freeman of a pattern of sexual harassment both on set and inside his production company, Revelations Entertainment. Spurred by Melas’ own encounter with Freeman during a press junket for Going in Style, where Freeman reportedly commented “You are ripe” to a pregnant Melas, the investigation featured 16 anonymous sources, eight who claimed they were victims of Freeman’s behavior and eight who corroborated their accounts.
Schwartz’s 10 page letter, which was reported by Variety, calls into question Melas’ account of her interview with Freeman and argues, “CNN has inflicted serious injury on his reputation and career. 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 24th.”
Schwartz goes on to demand a retraction for “portions of the story that concern Lori McCreary.” McCreary, Freeman’s producing partner at Revelations, was accused of fostering a “'toxic’ work environment” that demeaned women and allowed Freeman to continue his harassment unabated. In one telling instance, at 2016's Produced By conference, Freeman reportedly commented on McCreary’s outfit saying, “She wants to be thought of as serious … But you can’t get away from the short dresses.”
In the immediate aftermath of the CNN article, Freeman issued a statement last Thursday commenting, “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.” Freeman followed that initial statement up with a lengthier reply over the weekend, that begins “I am devastated that 80 years of my life is at risk of being undermined, in the blink of any eye” and continues, “But I also want to be clear: I did not create unsafe work environments. I did not assault women.”
Freeman has already faced a number of consequences, including the suspension of his marketing campaign with Visa, the city of Vancouver removing his voice from the public transit system, and SAG-AFTRA contemplating revoking his lifetime achievement award.
UPDATE: A spokesperson for CNN has issued a response to Schwartz's letter, as reported by Variety. The full statement can be read below:
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.