Morgan Freeman is fighting back in the wake of a CNN report that detailed allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior towards women in the workplace.
The actor’s legal team is demanding a retraction from CNN and threatening a possible lawsuit over a story that was published last week accusing the actor of sexual misconduct.
Among the many points made by Freeman in the letter is the fact that the comment which fueled reporter Chloe Melas’ investigation into him was not even made to her, but rather in response to a story his co-star Michael Caine had been telling at the press junket for Going In Style.
This comes just two days after one of the woman labeled as a Freeman accuser in story, Tyra Martin, said on-air that her comments were misrepresented and she did not at any point deem the actor’s behavior inappropriate.
Martin’s comments clarifying her stance on Freeman were not added into the CNN story prior to Tuesday morning.
Speaking out: Morgan Freeman (above with michael caine in interview where CNN reporter claims she was harassed) sent a legal letter to CNN demanding a retraction of their sexual misconduct report at the risk of being sued by the actor
The legal letter was sent out on Tuesday and is addressed to Jeff Zucker, the head of CNN.
In addition to Melas’ misunderstanding of the situation and Martin’s claim that she never accused the actor, the letter also shoots down the allegation that Freeman ever harassed his partner Lori McCreary.
She denies it according to the letter and an independent investigation also found he did not harass the head of the PGA.
The letter also states that McCreary denied the allegation to CNN prior to the publication of the story.
‘Based on those facts, and the additional information presented below, it is clear that CNN has defamed Mr. Freeman. CNN has inflicted serious injury on his reputation and career,’ states the letter from Freeman’s attorneys at Irell & Manella.
‘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 on May 24.’
The letter goes on to say: ‘CNN also needs to retract the portions of the story that concern Lori McCreary and apologize to her for defaming and injuring her.
In the piece, which Melas co-wrote, she details a few of the other allegations before coming around to her own story.
‘According to Melas, who was six months pregnant at the time, Freeman, in a room full of people, including his co-stars Arkin and Caine, shook Melas’ hand, not letting go while repeatedly looking her up and down and saying more than once a variation of, “I wish I was there.” She says he also said to her, “You are ripe,”‘ reads the CNN story.
‘Cameras were on and recording during one of Freeman’s remarks to Melas — “Boy, do I wish I was there” — but not for the rest. As is common practice with such junkets, Melas was the only CNN employee there at the time.’
Freeman tells a different version of events.
‘The problem with Ms. Melas’ account, which infected everything that she and CNN thereafter did, is that her version of the interview is false. It is based on her imagining that Mr. Freeman had said or done anything to harass her,’ reads the letter sent by Freeman’s lawyers.
‘However, there is substantial evidence that Ms. Melas imagined an incident, or exaggerated a non-malicious remark wildly out of proportion to reality, to give her a basis to go after Mr. Freeman and cause him the grave harm that CNN’s story has inflicted.’
The actor’s legal team then goes into the actor’s explanation of what happened at the junket.
‘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,’ state Freeman’s attorneys.
‘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.’