The national sexual harassment scandal has reached high up and touched another iconic giant in Hollywood.
Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman, who won his Oscar for his supporting role in Million Dollar Baby, is being accused by eight women of a pattern of sexual harassment throughout his illustrious career, CNN reports.
Sixteen people spoke about Freeman for CNN’s months-long investigation — eight witnesses and eight who claim to be victims, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
It must be noted that the outlet’s entertainment reporter Chloe Melas is the only woman who spoke on the record about allegedly being harassed. None of the others wanted to be named in the article.
However, it was Freeman himself who incidentally gave legitimacy to the women’s accounts of harassment when he offered a mea culpa for the way his behavior might have been interpreted.
“Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am not someone who would intentionally offend or knowingly make anyone feel uneasy,” Freeman said in a statement, according to CNN. “I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected — that was never my intent.”
Most of the accounts of harassment are relatively recent — meaning they allegedly took place in the new millennium, unlike in the cases of Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby, men whose cases allegedly spanned several decades.
One woman said that in the middle of 2015, while she was working on Freeman’s bank heist comedy Going in Style as a production assistant, she was victimized by Freeman in several ways over the course of four months. She alleged that Freeman repeatedly touched her without permission, either putting his hand on her lower back or rubbing it. Sometimes, Freeman made comments about her figure and clothing.
One time Freeman, according to this female, “kept trying to lift up my skirt and asking if I was wearing underwear,” adding that he never got the skirt up. “Alan [Arkin] made a comment telling him to stop. Morgan got freaked out and didn’t know what to say.”
Freeman’s sexually suggestive comments and manner of undressing women with his eyes became so commonplace, CNN reports, that a senior member of the production staff of the movie Now You See Me in 2012 said they would scatter like roaches with the lights turned on when Freeman came in the area: “(Freeman) did comment on our bodies. … We knew that if he was coming by … not to wear any top that would show our breasts, not to wear anything that would show our bottoms, meaning not wearing clothes that [were] fitted.”
A third instance of harassment came from one of the female employees of Freeman’s Revelations production company, CNN said. On the set of the science documentary TV series “Through the Wormhole,” the woman corroborated what other women testified, saying Freeman “looked me up and down” and then asked her, “How do you feel about sexual harassment?”
“I was stunned,” the woman recalls. “This is the person that I worked for, this is his company, I didn’t expect it at all … I said timidly, ‘I love it’ in a sarcastic way hoping to make light of the situation because I was so confused and then he turned to the guys on the crew … and said, ‘See guys, this is how you do it.'”
Even a male former employee tried to make light of Freeman’s behavior, CNN states, by saying Freeman’s behavior was like that of a “creepy uncle.”
“One time I witnessed Morgan walk up to an intern and start massaging her [shoulder],” he said. “The intern got visibly red and wiggled out of his grasp, it was awkward.”
The impetus to write this explosive exposé on Freeman’s behavior began during a movie junket that CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas went to. She said she was six months pregnant at the time and alleges that Freeman shook her hand and repeated a variation of, “I wish I was there.” Freeman also said, “You are ripe,” according to Melas.
Video captured Freeman telling Melas, “Boy, do I wish I was there” while sitting in between fellow acting greats Michael Caine and Alan Arkin.
Melas was so disturbed by the episode that she reported the incident to CNN’s human resources department, who then reported the alleged behavior to Warner Bros., the distribution company over Freeman’s film at the time. This began a months-long investigation where Melas actively sought out other possible female victims of Freeman’s alleged sexual harassment as well as any witnesses.
Freeman, 80, has been blessed with a movie career that spans nearly a half century. The roles in classic films such as Glory, Driving Miss Daisy and Shawshank Redemption in the 1980s and 90s turned Freeman into an international household name.
He won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for 2004’s Million Dollar Baby opposite fellow Academy Award winners Clint Eastwood and two-time winner Hillary Swank. He also has garnered four other Oscar nominations and multiple Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nods. At one point in the previous decade, he was considered America’s greatest actor by several prestigious industry magazines.
Freeman’s work as a voiceover artist has also become legendary, including his narration for the classic Shawshank Redemption as well as the Oscar-winning The Long Way Home and March of the Penguins.