An attorney for Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman has issued a statement demanding CNN to apologize and retract its May 24 story accusing the actor of multiple instances of sexual harassment.
In a letter to CNN president Jeff Zucker, the lawyer claims the article, where eight women have accused Freeman of harassment and inappropriate behavior, was “used to unjustly attack him.” He goes on to argue that the piece suffers from “…malicious intent, falsehoods, sleight-of-hand, an absence of editorial control, and journalistic malpractice.”
Mr Robert M. Schwartz claims that one of the article’s authors Chloe Melas lured witnesses and victims to speak out against Freeman and was motivated by personal bias. Melas says she was harassed by the actor during a junket interview for “Going in Style” — at the time, Freeman allegedly told the pregnant reporter that she was “ripe” and commented on her body. In his letter, Schwartz says an internal investigation by Warner Bros., the film’s producer, did not find any wrong-doing. Both Warner Bros. and CNN have the same corporate parent company, Time Warner.
“The problem with Ms. Melas’ account, which infected everything that she and CNN thereafter did, is that her version of the interview is false,” Schwartz writes. “It is based on her imagining that Mr. Freeman had said or done anything to harass her. 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.”
A spokesperson for CNN hit back at the letter in a statement, and noted that Freeman had initially apologized after the story broke.
“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,” the statement reads. “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.”