The latest Hollywood heavyweight to be accused of sexual misconduct and abuse of power is one of the most recognizable voices in the biz: Morgan Freeman. A CNN investigative report published Thursday recounts the stories of eight women who allege that Freeman made inappropriate sexual comments to them or, in some instances, groped them publicly. One of the co-authors on the story, Chloe Melas, experienced the actor’s inappropriate behaviour firsthand during an interview she conducted with him more than a year ago.
In a junket interview for Going in Style with Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin, Melas (who was six months pregnant at the time) reports that Freeman at one point said she looked “ripe” and commented on several occasions that he “wished he could have been there.” One of those occasions was filmed during the process of the interview.
CNN entertainment reporter @Chloe_Melas describes her experience with Morgan Freeman at a press junket: "As soon as I walked into the room, Alisyn, he started to make sexual comments to me and one of those was caught on tape." https://t.co/Bv3ujakGFl pic.twitter.com/GqonBChsea
— New Day (@NewDay) May 25, 2018
The experience motivated Melas to dig into the behaviour further and in her investigation she and her colleague An Phung unearthed a pattern and spoke to eight more women who were willing to go on record about their interactions with Freeman. Another eight witnesses corroborated their accounts.
Some of the women worked on the sets of Freeman’s films and spent their working hours being ogled by the actor and rebuffing comments about their bodies – even altering the way they dressed to be more conservative. They also report instances of inappropriate touching; on some occasions, rubbing their backs and in one case in particular, attempting to feel up the woman’s skirt and asking if she was wearing underwear.
Other women who spoke to CNN are employees at Freeman’s production company, Revelations Entertainment, and describe a toxic environment of sexual harassment. They disclosed similar instances of being ostentatiously looked up and down by the actor and receiving inappropriate comments.
Two entertainment journalists – in addition to Melas – who have interviewed the star also came forward with stories of sexual remarks made toward them by Freeman during press junkets. Melas reported her experience to CNN human resources and says in the piece that when they contacted their counterparts at Warner Bros., the studio said they could not corroborate her report because the other WB employees in the room hadn’t noticed anything.
All of the other women interviewed said that they did not report any of Freeman’s behaviour, mostly out of fear for their jobs – a common theme.
The article makes the point that while many of the men outed by the Me Too movement – Harvey Weinstein in particular – engaged in predatory behaviour behind closed doors, the Freeman allegations spotlight another systemic problem in the entertainment industry: public harassment. Men in power often get away with making such sexual comments or inappropriately touching women in public because no one wants to be the one to call out a star in front of others.
After the report was published, Freeman issued a statement sort of apologising for making anyone feel uncomfortable, while denying any intentionally inappropriate behaviour.
“Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am not someone who would intentionally offend or knowingly make anyone feel uneasy,” the statement reads, “I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected – that was never my intent.”
In response to the allegations, VISA has suspended their famous advertising campaign featuring Freeman’s legendary voice. That includes a series of advertisements rolled out on Vancouver public transit this week. The actor recorded service announcements for the TransLink system and one day after their launch, the ads are being pulled and the campaign scrapped. It is possible, however, that Seth Rogen will fill in.
In light of information we’ve learned through news stories this morning of serious allegations , TransLink has decided to pause his voice announcements as part of a VISA ad campaign on the transit system. We will be reaching out to VISA to discuss further. ^AR
— TransLink BC (@TransLink) May 24, 2018
Yo if they need a replacement now let me know.
— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) May 24, 2018
The Screen Actors Guild also said in a statement Thursday that they are “reviewing” Freeman’s recent Lifetime Achievement Award and may take “corrective actions.” SAG said they are dedicated to ensuring “a safe work environment for the professionals in this industry” and added that while Freeman is entitled to due process, “it is our starting point to believe the courageous voices who come forward to report incidents of harassment.”
The actor was presented with the honour in January.
Hearing about Morgan Freeman and all I can think about is @AsiaArgento's searing words at Cannes:
"You know who you are. But most importantly, we know who you are. And we’re not going to allow you to get away with it any longer." #MeToo
— Danielle Campoamor (@DCampoamor) May 24, 2018