Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman apologized on Thursday to anyone who may have felt “uncomfortable or disrespected” by his behaviour, after CNN reported that multiple women have accused the A-list actor of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour on movie sets and in other professional settings.
“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 actor, now 80, said in a statement sent to media by his publicist, Stan Rosenfield.
“I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected — that was never my intent.”
Freeman won the 2005 Oscar for best supporting actor for Million Dollar Baby. He was nominated four other times, including for Driving Miss Daisy and The Shawshank Redemption, and is renowned for his prolific voiceover work.
Earlier this year, he was honoured by SAG-AFTRA with a lifetime achievement award. In a statement to The Associated Press, the organization, which represents actors, journalists and others, called the allegations “compelling and devastating” and contrary to its attempts to make sure working environments are safe in the industry.
“Any accused person has the right to due process, but it is our starting point to believe the courageous voices who come forward to report incidents of harassment,” the statement read.
“Given Mr. Freeman recently received one of our union’s most prestigious honours recognizing his body of work, we are therefore reviewing what corrective actions may be warranted at this time.”
Unwanted touching, inappropriate comments
The CNN report includes the account of a production assistant on the 2017 heist film Going In Style, who detailed an incident in which the actor repeatedly tried to lift up her skirt, and asked if she was wearing underwear. She alleged that Freeman subjected her to unwanted touching and comments on a near-daily basis on the film.
Several women alleged that he made frequent comments about their bodies, or would stare at them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable.
CNN spoke to 16 people about Freeman; eight said they had experienced harassment or inappropriate behaviour, and eight said they had witnessed such conduct. Seven of them described harassment or inappropriate behaviour at Revelations Entertainment, a company he co-founded with Lori McCreary.
The CNN report also cited accounts by three entertainment reporters of inappropriate remarks they allege Freeman made at press junkets, including the report’s co-author, Chloe Melas, who describes Freeman shaking her hand, “not letting go while repeatedly looking her up and down and saying more than once a variation of, ‘I wish I was there’ — and also ‘You are ripe.'”
The Vancouver-area transit authority, TransLink, pulled a pulled a promotional campaign Freeman had voiced following the allegations. The announcements were set to play in the transit system as part of a Visa Canada ad campaign. Freeman has been a Visa pitchman for many years.
He also narrated a series of online ads posted on the credit card company’s YouTube page introducing riders to the new “tap-to-pay” feature, sharing local trivia and reminding riders about transit etiquette.
“In light of information we’ve learned through news stories this morning of serious allegations against actor Morgan Freeman, TransLink has decided to pause his voice announcements as part of a Visa ad campaign on the transit system,” said a statement issued Thursday morning by TransLink.