Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman is the latest Hollywood figure to face allegations of sexual misconduct. US news network CNN said it spoke with eight women who claimed to be victims of harassment by Freeman.
Actor Morgan Freeman issued a statement on Thursday apologizing to those who felt "uncomfortable or disrespected" by his behavior.
Freeman's statement came hours after US news network CNN reported that multiple women had accused the actor of sexual harassment and other troubling behavior on set and in other professional settings.
"Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am not someone who would intentionally offend or knowingly make anyone feel uneasy," the actor, who turns 81 next week, said. "I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected — that was never my intent."
Freeman won the best supporting actor Oscar in 2005 for boxing drama "Million Dollar Baby" and has been nominated four more times for an Academy Award. His other major films include "The Shawshank Redemption," "Se7en," and "Driving Miss Daisy," along with several "Batman"films.
Famed for his deeply resonant voice, Freeman also did the voice over for the award-winning "March of the Penguins" documentary.
Sixteen women speak out
CNN said it spoke with 16 people — eight of whom were reportedly victims — who accuse Freeman of a range inappropriate behaviors, from making lewd comments about their bodies to touching them suggestively.
Among the accusers was CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas, who said that Freeman had looked her up and down repeatedly and described her as "ripe" during an interview last year. Melas was six months pregnant at the time.
A young production assistant said Freeman harassed her over a period of months during the summer of 2015 on the set of "Going in Style." The actor allegedly rested his hand on her lower back or rubbed it repeatedly, and often made comments about her appearance.
A third woman, a production staff member for the 2013 film "Now You See Me," told CNN that crew members knew "not to wear any top that would show our breasts, not to wear anything that would show our bottoms," or any fitted clothes if Freeman was on set.
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Hollywood's #MeToo reckoning
Freeman is the latest high profile figure to be accused of sexual misconduct. The downfall of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein last October triggered a reckoning in the US over sexual harassment and gave rise to the #MeToo movement.
Since then, there has been a parade of powerful men across the entertainment, media and political sectors facing allegations of sexual misconduct and being forced to step down.
Other Hollywood A-listers who been accused include Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman, as well as director-producer Brett Ratner.
Screen Actors Guild considers rescinding Freeman award
A spokesman for the Screen Actors Guild said it was considering withdrawing Freeman's lifetime achievement prize, which he was awarded in January.
The guild spokeswoman said Freeman had the right to due process, but that the starting point was to believe the "courageous" women who had come forward with the allegations.
"Given Mr. Freeman recently received one of our union's most prestigious honors recognizing his body of work, we are therefore reviewing what corrective actions may be warranted at this time," the spokeswoman said.
dm/bw (AP, AFP, dpa)