You may have noticed that Morgan Freeman has had a rough go of it in the news lately. In April, the man who allegedly murdered Freeman’s step-granddaughter E’Dena Hines claimed in court that Hines and Freeman had an inappropriate sexual relationship (a long-standing rumor that Freeman and Hines had previously denied). Last week, CNN reported that eight women were accusing Freeman of creating an uncomfortable work environment marked by unwanted touching, inappropriate comments, and awkward encounters.
One woman claimed that Freeman tried to lift her skirt repeatedly, and asked if she was wearing underwear. CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas said that Freeman grasped her hand, looked her up and down, and stated, “You are ripe.” He allegedly made so many sexual comments to female co-workers that they were afraid to wear revealing clothing around him, and he is accused of instances of “unsolicited touching” (giving unwanted massages, placing a hand on the small of the back). He is also accused of intimidating behavior, staring down women and leering at them while hovering only inches away.
Some colleagues and co-workers leapt to his defense, while others corroborated the reports of Freeman fostering a hostile work environment. Freeman quickly released a brief statement. “Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am not someone who would intentionally offend or knowingly make anyone feel uneasy,” he said. “I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected — that was never my intent.”
Today, published by Variety, Freeman issued a longer statement through his publicist, Stan Rosenfield.
“I am devastated that 80 years of my life is at risk of being undermined, in the blink of an eye, by Thursday’s media reports. All victims of assault and harassment deserve to be heard. And we need to listen to them. But it is not right to equate horrific incidents of sexual assault with misplaced compliments or humor.
I admit that I am someone who feels a need to try to make women—and men—feel appreciated and at ease around me. As a part of that, I would often try to joke with and compliment women, in what I thought was a light-hearted and humorous way. 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.
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.”
Is this a case of (bad, awkward, nauseating) flirting gone awry, or is there a more sinister angle here? Do you think Freeman’s behavior deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Harvey Weinstein’s? Let us know in the comments below.