UPDATED WITH CNN RESPONSE: Insisting that Morgan Freeman is being viewed “as someone akin to… Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey,” an attorney for the 80-year-old actor has hit back at CNN by demanding a retraction and a public apology for a report accusing Freeman of multiple incidences of harassment.
In a 10-page letter addressed to CNN President Jeff Zucker, Los Angeles attorney Robert M. Schwartz accuses the outlet of “malicious intent, falsehoods, slight-of-hand, an absence of editorial control, and journalistic malpractice” for its story about 16 individuals who accused the world-famous actor of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior. Since the report, Visa suspended a marketing campaign featuring Freeman, while the Screen Actors Guild was reportedly considering whether to revoke the recent lifetime achievement award it gave to Freeman.
“Predictably, those who work with Mr. Freeman have felt the need to distance themselves and to consider suspending further engagement,” Schwartz writes. “The damage CNN has inflicted is real. And given Mr. Freeman’s career and many motion picture and television commitments, it is substantial.”
CNN released this statement shortly after the letter was released to the press by Freeman’s attorney: “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. 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.”
The CNN story originated with an incident involving author/TV entertainment reporter Chloe Melas, the only accuser who didn’t claim anonymity. She alleged that Freeman made inappropriate remarks during a press junket interview for Going In Style, saying he shook her hand while looking her up and down and saying “I wish I was there” and “You are ripe.” Mela was six months pregnant at the time.