CNN said that it will not retract a story that details allegations made against actor Morgan Freeman, who has been accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior.
“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 network’s 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.”
The network on Thursday, meanwhile, called a letter from attorney Robert M. Schwartz “rife with empty speculation, overheated rhetoric and in some instances plainly false assertions,” The Hollywood Reporter reported.
“It was accurate when reported by CNN,” the network said of the article. “It remains accurate now.”
In a letter, CNN’s senior legal VP David C. Vigilante also accused Schwartz of a conflict of interest. His firm has been “actively representing CNN and its affiliates in several intellectual property matters.”
CNN reporter Chloe Melas is one of Freeman’s accusers, saying that the Academy Award-winning actor made suggestive comments to her when she was six months pregnant.
Freeman’s Los Angeles attorney, Robert M. Schwartz, told CNN’s Jeff Zucker that Melas “had no reasonable basis” to interpret Freeman’s remark as harassment. He said that video of the interview shows that Freeman’s comment was in response to a story that Michael Caine, a co-star in a film he was promoting, had made moments before.
CNN reported that it spoke with 16 people as part of its investigation into the 80-year-old actor, some of whom also alleged inappropriate behavior by Freeman at his production company, Revelations Entertainment, Reuters reported.
The network said eight people told the network they were victims of what some labeled harassment and others called inappropriate behavior by Freeman. It said eight others told the network they witnessed the actor’s alleged misconduct.
CNN also said other sources denied having seen any questionable behavior by the actor, and that those sources described him as being professional on set and in the office.
Freeman apologized last week for saying anything that might have been misinterpreted.
“Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am not someone who would intentionally offend or knowingly make anyone feel uneasy. I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected; that was never my intent,” the actor said, NBC reported.
But he contented in another statement he is “devastated that 80 years of my life is at risk of being undermined, in the blink of an eye, by Thursday’s media reports,” Reuters reported. “But I also want to be clear: I did not create unsafe work environments. I did not assault women. I did not offer employment or advancement in exchange for sex. Any suggestion that I did so is completely false,” he said.
“Clearly I was not always coming across the way I intended. And that is why I apologized Thursday and will continue to apologize to anyone I might have upset, however unintentionally,” he said.
Freeman won an Oscar in 2005 for his role in “Million Dollar Baby.”
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