Morgan Freeman has his lawyers calling for CNN to retract their recent story accusing the actor of sexual harassment and misconduct. CNN recently released a detailed account with eight different women accusing the actor of making inappropriate comments and gestures at various times. However, Freeman's representatives have sent a 10-page letter to CNN demanding that they retract the story. Here's what part of the letter has to say.
"It is clear that CNN has defamed Mr. Freeman. 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."
CNN responded, saying that they won't retract 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," said the network in a statement. They went on to further push against the demands by Morgan Freeman's lawyers, saying that the accusations made in the letter are unfounded and that the accusations "are disappointing and are difficult to reconcile with Mr. Freeman's own public statements in the aftermath of the story." This is in reference to a public apology Freeman made last week following the misconduct claims made against him.
"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."
Beyond the fact that a prolific and acclaimed actor such as Morgan Freeman has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, this story has had some complications. CNN's report was, in part, a firsthand recollection by CNN reporter Chloe Melas, which had to do with an incident during a press junket for the movie Going in Style. Morgan's lawyers, and some in the media, have argued that Melas should not have been to write what was presented as a report but was based on and influenced by her own experience. Melas accused Freeman of making suggestive comments toward her during the press junket. Morgan's lawyers offered this explanation of the incident in the letter.
"It is correct that, during the interview, Mr. Freeman said, 'I wish I was there.' But Ms. Melas had no factual basis to have interpreted that as a statement about her, or as sexual harassment. The videotape makes clear that Mr. Freeman was in fact responding to a story that Michael Caine had just told. In that story, Mr. Caine had congratulated a woman on becoming pregnant, only to learn to Mr. Caine's (and the woman's) embarrassment that she was not pregnant. When Mr. Freeman said 'I wish I was there,' any reasonable viewer would have known that the 'there' to which he was referring was the conversation in which Mr. Freeman's friend, Mr. Caine, had embarrassed himself. That is exactly what Mr. Freeman intended. Despite what should have been clear to Ms. Melas, she chose to interpret Michael Caine's anecdote, and Mr. Freeman's remark about it, as having something to do with her and as harassment. One cannot know if that was the product of something as innocuous as Ms. Melas' having misheard what Mr. Freeman said, her runaway self-centeredness, or her search for a sexual harassment perpetrator to 'expose' so that she could grab attention and advance her career. Despite what should have been clear to Ms. Melas, she chose to interpret Michael Caine's anecdote, and Mr. Freeman's remark about it, as having something to do with her and as harassment. One cannot know if that was the product of something as innocuous as Ms. Melas' having misheard what Mr. Freeman said, her runaway self-centeredness, or her search for a sexual harassment perpetrator to "expose" so that she could grab attention and advance her career. One also has to ask whether Ms. Melas would have had the same unjustified overreaction if the remark had come from Michael Caine or Alan Arkin."
That last sentence is of particular note, as it implies the lawyers are arguing there was some potential racism at play. Irell & Manella LLP says the news network and its website showcased "malicious intent, falsehoods, slight-of-hand, an absence of editorial control, and journalistic malpractice" with the story. For now, CNN stands by its report and isn't giving in to the demands of Morgan Freeman's representation. This news comes to us courtesy of The Wrap.