After attorney Robert M. Schwartz issued a letter to CNN demanding it retract the sexual harassment story it published about Morgan Freeman, the network has refused and is standing by its reporting. But the response hasn’t prompted Schwartz to back down, either.
Oscar-winner Freeman has lost endorsement deals as a result of the Thursday report where eight women alleged he did things like stare at a women’s breasts and try to lift another’s skirt. After an initial apology for making anyone feel “uncomfortable or disrespected,” the actor released another, lengthier apology.
“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,” he said Saturday, May 26. “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.”
By Tuesday, USA Today reported Schwartz sent a 10-page letter to CNN claiming the story is “the product of malicious intent, falsehoods, slight-of-hand (sic), an absence of editorial control, and journalistic malpractice.” It also noted the firm, Irell & Manella, has begun its own investigation.
In addition to a retraction, the lawyer wants the news network to apologize to Freeman and his Revelations Entertainment partner Lori McCreary, who he says told reporters she wasn’t harassed despite the CNN report.
However, CNN is refusing to do so.
“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,” the cable network said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, according to Deadline. “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.”
However, Freeman’s attorney is not backing down. Schwartz responded to CNN, maintaining “objective evidence” was given to the network that proves “beyond any doubt” that the claims were fabricated.
“We presented CNN with objective evidence, including videotapes and on-the-record denials by the claimed ‘victims,’ that the alleged incident that gave rise to the story never happened,” the lawyer said. “We proved to CNN, beyond any doubt, that the whole story was built on fakery. The credibility of the entire CNN attack on Mr. Freeman has now been undermined. And in choosing to ignore all of the evidence that we presented, CNN has confirmed our concerns about its reporters, its lack of oversight, and its gross misconduct in unjustifiably attacking Mr. Freeman.”
The back-and-forth comes after video footage was released of Freeman’s interactions with journalists during press junkets. Although eight women shared their personal experiences with Freeman, eight others in the story said they witnessed incidents of inappropriate remarks and behavior.
“Entertainment Tonight” aired two occurrences of Freeman commenting on women’s bodies.
During a 2016 interview for “London Has Fallen,” the actor asks ET correspondent Ashley Crossan, “My goodness, are you married? Fool around with older guys? I’m just asking.”
When she told him it was a pleasure to meet him following the interview, Freeman said, “Mine. Look at yourself.”
The 80-year-old also made comments to activist Janet Mock, who served as an ET special correspondent in 2015. She interviewed the actor for his film, “Five Flights Up.”
“I don’t know how you all manage to do that all the time,” Freeman tells Mock. “You got a dress halfway between your knee and your hips, and you sit down right across from me and you cross your legs.”
In response to the latest dose of fallout, fans have begun taking sides.
“Back at it with false stories.”
“I’m such a fan of his but I saw 2 different video clips. I’m embarrassed for him, this was definitely harassment.”
“A crass comment isn’t sexual harassment. Might be poor taste, but nothing else.”
“I demand Morgan Freeman retract his actions … now is that possible?!? 🤔.”