Posted Tuesday, May 29, 2018 by RODNEY HOfirstname.lastname@example.org on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
CNN broke a story last week about Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman acting inappropriately with multiple women. Freeman first apologized for what he dubbed "misplaced compliments or humor" but then began fighting back and has requested CNN "retract" the story over any hint of "sexual assault."
Robert M Schwartz of Irell & Manella, representing Freeman, emailed a 10-page letter to CNN president Jeff Zucker, threatening a lawsuit.
One woman who worked on a film with him but didn't identify herself said Freeman touched her inappropriately and made comments about her almost every day.
"We presented CNN with objective evidence, including videotapes and on-the-record denials by the claimed 'victims,' that the alleged incident that gave rise to the story never happened," Schartz wrote.
CNN reporter and Atlanta native Chloe Melas, while pregnant, said he made inappropriate sexual comments about her during a press junket to promote a film in 2016. This led her to do more reporting with a CNN editor that dug up several other women who had similar experiences. Most did not go on the record. The one who did, WGN producer Tyra Martin, said he made one comment that crossed a line but she never felt uncomfortable with him.
Schwartz said Melas misinterpreted a harmless comment that was captured on camera as sexual. He also characterized aspects of the story as filled with "malicious intent, falsehoods, slight-of-hand, an absence of editorial control, and journalistic malpractice." He feels Freeman is being painted with a broad brush along the lines of celebrities who had more serious charges placed against them such as Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey.
The Atlanta-based news network stands by its story.
"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" CNN said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. "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."