Morgan Freeman responds to 8 women accusing him of sexual harassment: 'I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected'

·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
Morgan Freeman attends the <em>Going in Style</em> New York premiere on March 30, 2017. (Photo: D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)
Morgan Freeman attends the Going in Style New York premiere on March 30, 2017. (Photo: D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)

Morgan Freeman is speaking out following allegations of sexual harassment by eight women.

“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 award-winning actor, 80, tells Yahoo Entertainment. “I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected — that was never my intent.”

CNN ran a story on Thursday in which eight women accused the Driving Miss Daisy and Shawshank Redemption actor of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, including “unwanted touching.” The news outlet also spoke to eight other women who witnessed Freeman’s alleged misconduct. According to the story, “These 16 people together described a pattern of inappropriate behavior by Freeman on set, while promoting his movies, and at his production company Revelations Entertainment.”

The allegations centered around Freeman commenting on the women’s bodies and clothing choices, as well as touching them, all of which made the women — including production assistants and reporters at his movie junkets — uncomfortable at work. The only victim identified was CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas, who co-authored the article; the rest of the women spoke anonymously.

One of the stories told was by a young production assistant from the 2017 film Going in Style, who said that Freeman made comments about her figure and clothing on a daily basis for months and repeatedly touched her back without her permission. One time, she said, he “kept trying to lift up my skirt and asking if I was wearing underwear.” Because of the experience, the assistant said she decided to leave the movie industry. “It was constant comments about the way I looked,” she said.

Former staffers at Revelations, which Freeman founded in 1996, talked about a “toxic” work environment. Six people said they witnessed Freeman’s questionable behavior around women, including sexual comments and one incident involving unwanted touching. When one the people met the actor for the first time, on the set of Through the Wormhole, she said Freeman “looked me up and down” before asking, “How do you feel about sexual harassment?” Another former staffer said he would walk over to her desk and blatantly stare at her breasts. “‘Don’t worry; that’s just Morgan,'” she was told. Yet another story was related by a man who said he saw Freeman massaging an intern who “got visibly red and wiggled out of his grasp; it was awkward.”

A writer for Madam Secretary, which is produced by Revelations, reported witnessing Freeman’s so-called office antics — specifically Freeman leering at female staffers — at a birthday party for him at the office. “We saw Morgan go around to the girls … and get really close to their faces; he didn’t do it to the men,” the person recalled. “I don’t know what he said, but we all thought it was strange and couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there. Absolutely there were sexual undertones to it.” After the #MeToo movement began, the same writer said they knew “that Morgan would be the next person to be called out.”

This behavior didn’t go unnoticed by men. A former male Revelations employee told CNN he heard Freeman making inappropriate comments. “[He’d say] things like, ‘I’d like to have an hour with her’ or make vulgar and sexual comments about women,” the person said. “He would be verbally inappropriate, and it was just shocking. You’re more shocked than anything because it’s hard to have the wherewithal to say to him, ‘That’s inappropriate.’ You’re just like, ‘Whoa.’ It’s hard because on any set he is the most powerful person on it. It’s weird because you just don’t expect it from Morgan Freeman, someone who you respect.”

Several of the former staffers suggested Revelations Entertainment co-founder Lori McCreary didn’t do enough.

CNN’s Melas shared her own experience with Freeman, saying that when she was interviewing him at the Going in Style junket while she was six months pregnant, he looked her up and down and made comments that left her feeling upset. “‘Boy, do I wish I was there,'” she remembered him saying, as well as, “You are ripe.” (Part of the exchange was recorded.) Because of that encounter, Melas started making calls to see whether other women had experienced similar behavior with Freeman.

Most of the accusers told CNN they didn’t report Freeman’s alleged harassment because they feared for their jobs. Instead, they came up with ways to combat it, including dressing in loose clothing. Melas did report the incident, and her supervisor agreed that she would not cover the movie.

On Thursday, following the CNN story, Vancouver’s transit authority, TransLink, announced that it is “pausing” announcements featuring Freeman’s voice.

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