Morgan Freeman demands apology from CNN following sexual harassment report, attorney calls it 'journalistic malpractice'

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After an investigation in which CNN spoke to 16 sources who said they either saw or experienced Morgan Freeman's behavior, Freeman is demanding an apology in a letter from his attorney. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Morgan Freeman is demanding an apology following a CNN report that he sexually harassed and behaved inappropriately toward women.

In a 10-page letter released by his attorney on Tuesday, Freeman demanded an immediate apology and a retraction from CNN. The letter called the report a "product of malicious intent, falsehoods, slight-of-hand, an absence of editorial control, and journalistic malpractice."

The report, published last week, followed interviews with eight people who said the 80-year-old Oscar winner had either exhibited inappropriate behavior with them or harassed them. CNN also interviewed eight witnesses. Among the accusers was a production assistant who said that on one occasion Freeman "kept trying to lift up my skirt and asking if I was wearing underwear."

Freeman released a statement on the day the report was published, apologizing "to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected."



A day later he told ABC News that the report "devastated" him, adding that "it is not right to equate horrific incidents of sexual assault with misplaced compliments or humor."

In the letter, attorney Robert Schwartz echoed these sentiments, writing, "Mr. Freeman is being viewed in the global court of public opinion as someone akin to notorious harassers and accused rapists, such as Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. CNN had no justification for doing that."

After the letter was released, CNN said in a statement to ABC News that it stands by the report. The CNN statement reads:

"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 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."

One of the accusers in the report was Chloe Melas, a CNN entertainment reporter who co-authored the article. She said that Freeman had made inappropriate comments to her during a press junket, and this interaction was the catalyst for the investigation.

Melas, who was pregnant at the time, said Freeman told her, "You are ripe." He also said multiple variations of "I wish I was there," she said, one of which was caught on camera.

In the letter, Schwartz wrote that Melas "set out on a crusade to vilify him." He wrote that Freeman's comment had been in response to a story that co-star Michael Caine was telling about accidentally congratulating a woman who was not pregnant.

In an earlier interview with CNN, Melas said that Freeman had also made similar comments before Caine told his story but that cameras had not been rolling.



After CNN responded to the letter, Freeman's attorney fired back with another statement, which read in part:

"We proved to CNN, beyond any doubt, that the whole story was built on fakery. The credibility of the entire CNN attack on Mr. Freeman has now been undermined. And in choosing to ignore all of the evidence that we presented, CNN has confirmed our concerns about its reporters, its lack of oversight, and its gross misconduct in unjustifiably attacking Mr. Freeman."

ABC News contributed to this report.
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