Morgan Freeman‘s attorney is demanding that CNN retract a story consisting of eight women accusing him of sexual misconduct, according to a letter obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. Freeman initially apologized last Thursday after the accusations were published, but now his lawyer is demanding both a retraction and an apology amid claims that the story “inflicted serious injury” on the actor’s reputation. The letter also states that Freeman’s legal counsel has launched its own investigation into CNN’s article, which was co-authored by a reporter, Chloe Melas, who says Freeman made inappropriate comments to her during an interview on a press junket.
After CNN published the report, Tyra Martin told TMZ that her comments were taken out of context. From CNN:
As the entertainment producer at Chicago’s WGN-TV, Tyra Martin spent hours interviewing Freeman at various press junkets. Over the course of a decade, she said, she sat down with him at least nine times and grew accustomed to his comments about her appearance. But Martin made it clear in an interview with CNN that she was always “in on the joke.” WGN produced videos featuring some of Freeman’s remarks to Martin, describing it as him flirting with her. But Martin felt that one incident crossed a line.
“When I stood up, I pulled my skirt part of my dress down and he did say, ‘Oh, don’t pull it down now.'” Martin said. “That gave me pause but I never felt uncomfortable.”
It is unclear whether video of that incident exists.
“Hey, still getting a lot of nasty messages from people who think I AM one of the accusers,” Martin told TMZ in a post published on Saturday. “I’m not, never was. CNN totally misrepresented the video and took my remarks out of context.”
The CNN story cited eight alleged victims and eight witnesses, most of whom chose to remain anonymous. Claims came from production assistants and other professionals on film sets who said that Freeman made inappropriate comments to them, or in the instance of an accuser working on the set of the 2015 film Going in Style, rested his hands on or rubbed her lower back.
“Given that Mr. Freeman is a world-renowned actor, and that the article sought to associate him with Hollywood actors and executives who have used their positions to trade sex for career advancement, it will come as no surprise to you that CNN’s article attracted explosive attention in newspapers and websites throughout the world,” the letter from Freeman’s attorney reads. “But no one who read CNN’s article about Mr. Freeman was told that it was the product of malicious intent, falsehoods, slight-of-hand, an absence of editorial control, and journalistic malpractice.”
Over the weekend, Freeman issued the following statement:
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.
Update (1:40 pm) “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,” a CNN spokesperson said in a statement issued to Spin. “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.”