Morgan Freeman, long the go-to answer to the question “what do you think God’s voice sounds like?,” has been accused by eight women of sexual harassment and sexually inappropriate workplace conduct, not just on set but while promoting his films at press junkets and at his production company, Revelations Entertainment.
A CNN investigation into Freeman’s alleged misdeeds, published Thursday, details decades of groping, unwanted touching, and making lewd and demeaning comments about women and their bodies. CNN’s reporting is based not only on interviews with eight victims but with eight witnesses as well.
One young production assistant who worked on Going in Style in the summer of 2015 said Freeman “kept trying to lift up my skirt and asking if I was wearing underwear.” Entertainment reporters describe Freeman making sexually graphic comments toward them — one of the CNN reporters recalled Freeman looking her up and down when she was six months pregnant and telling her, “I wish I was there” and “You are ripe” — in full view of witnesses and sometimes even on camera.
A particularly telling detail is that as CNN reporters began pursuing the story, the sources they called would bring up Freeman’s name without being prompted to do so:
“Several other times during this investigation, when a CNN reporter contacted a person who had worked with Freeman to try to ask them if they had seen or been subjected to inappropriate behavior by an actor they had worked with — not initially even naming the actor they were asking about — the person would immediately tell them they knew exactly who the reporter had in mind: Morgan Freeman. Some of those people were sources for this investigation while others declined to comment further or did not want what they said used in this story.”
Though CNN contacted Freeman’s spokesperson for comment before the story was published, and also sent along “a detailed list of the accusations against Freeman,” they received no reply. Freeman released an initial statement on Thursday after the story went live, saying “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.”
Thursday evening, Freeman followed up with a lengthier statement. Issued through his publicist Stan Rosenfield, Freeman makes a number of false or irrelevant claims in his letter. He writes that it is “not right to equate horrific incidents of sexual assault with misplaced compliments or humor,” which is not something any of his accusers are actually doing. (Also, why qualify “incidents of sexual assault” with “horrific”? Is there some not-horrific type of sexual assault Freeman would like people to consider?)
He also clarified his first apology, saying his words were jokes and compliments he “thought” he delivered in “a light-hearted and humorous way.” So he apologizes now “to anyone I might have upset, however unintentionally.”
He closed his statement by denying, if not the content of all the allegations against him, the notion that his behavior “create[d] unsafe work environments.” Former staffers described the culture at Revelations Entertainment, Freeman’s production company, as “toxic.” It is worth noting that five sources told CNN “there was no formal human resources department” at Revelations.
And again, although none of the women in the story accused him of sexual assault, Freeman said, “I did not assault women… Any suggestion that I did so is completely false.”
Freeman also writes, “I did not offer employment or advancement in exchange for sex.” This — again — is not something of which he has been accused, though a number of women in the story say Freeman would humiliate or demean female employees in public and at work functions.
Freeman’s statement reads, in full:
“I am devastated that 80 years of my life is at risk of being undermined, in the blink of an eye, by Thursday’s media reports.
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 humor.
I admit that I am someone who feels a need to try to make women—and men—feel appreciated and at ease around me. 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. And that is why I apologized Thursday and will continue to apologize to anyone I might have upset, however unintentionally.
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.”