Morgan Freeman: ‘I did not assault women’

Morgan Freeman issued a second apology after eight people accused him of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior, and the actor said his actions should not be equated with incidents of sexual assault or abuse in the workplace.

CNN was first to report the allegations of inappropriate behavior and harassment as part of an investigation published Thursday.

In his statement issued late Friday, Freeman said “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 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.”

CNN spoke to 16 people, eight of whom said they were victims of what some called harassment and others called inappropriate behavior by Freeman. Eight said they witnessed Freeman’s alleged conduct. The 16 people together described a pattern of inappropriate behavior on set, while promoting his movies and at his production company Revelations Entertainment.

Four people who worked in production capacities on movie sets with Freeman over the last ten years described him as repeatedly behaving in ways that made women feel uncomfortable at work.

Three entertainment reporters who spoke to CNN said Freeman made inappropriate remarks to them during press junkets, which are publicity events for journalists who cover new films, typically attended by the movie’s biggest stars.

One of the three, CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas, the co-author of this article, says she was subjected to inappropriate behavior by Freeman more than a year ago, when she interviewed him at a press junket for “Going in Style.”

Freeman also issued a statement after the allegations first surfaced, saying he is “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.”

Following CNN’s investigation, two outlets have published what they say are examples of questionable behavior by Freeman.

Entertainment Tonight released footage on Thursday from a 2016 interview for Freeman’s movie “London Has Fallen,” in which the actor is seen asking reporter Ashley Crossan if she is married and if she’s ever “fooled around with older guys.”

In another interview, this time from 2015, Freeman is seen on camera saying to activist and former Entertainment Tonight correspondent Janet Mock, “You got a dress halfway between your knee and your hips, and you sit down right across from me and you cross your legs.”

Mock issued the following statement to ET regarding the incident with Freeman: “For me, as a young woman of color, who is a reporter and a fan of popular culture, I was deeply disappointed that someone who was seen as America’s grandfather was susceptible to such disturbing behavior and felt comfortable enough to do that as cameras were rolling, and that he could take claim of my body and look at it before even looking into my eyes.”

People magazine also published a first-person account written by reporter Maggie Parker who recounted an incident in which Freeman allegedly made a “lewd” comment implying he wanted to see her naked, at the premiere of “Now You See Me,” in 2013.

Reports about Freeman’s alleged behavior prompted credit card company Visa to suspend its marketing campaign that featured Freeman.

The Screen Actors Guild also said it is in the process of determining what, if any, action will be necessary regarding Freeman, who received its lifetime achievement award in January.

Accusations against Freeman are the latest in a series from women and men who have spoken out in recent months about inappropriate behavior by powerful men in Hollywood and other industries.

Movements punctuated by hashtags such as #MeToo were given life after accusations surfaced against former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of abuse, misconduct and harassment by more than 80 women.

Weinstein was arraigned Friday on charges of first- and third-degree rape and committing a criminal sexual act in the first degree, seven months after women began to come forward. Weinstein was charged for alleged incidents involving two women.

Through a spokesperson, Weinstein has previously denied accusations of sexual assault.

After his arraignment, Weinstein’s lawyer Benjamin Brafman said “Mr. Weinstein has always maintained that he has never engaged in non-consensual sexual behavior with anyone. Nothing about today’s proceedings changes Mr. Weinstein’s position. He has entered a plea of not guilty and fully expects to be exonerated.”