“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," the actor said in a statement to ET on Friday. "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."
In a CNN report published on Thursday, eight women -- who either worked with Freeman on movie sets, worked for his production company, or interviewed him in a professional setting -- alleged that the 80-year-old actor subjected them to inappropriate behavior, including unwanted touching and comments about their figure. Several of the accusers said they didn't report Freeman's alleged behavior because they feared for their jobs.
"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 a part of that, I would often try to joke with and compliment women, in what I thought was a light-hearted and humorous way," Freeman's statement continued. "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.”
Morgan Freeman Accused of 'Inappropriate Behavior' By Multiple Women
Entertainment reporter Chloe Melas, who co-authored the CNN piece on the accusations against Freeman, said she began reaching out to women after experiencing what she described as her own inappropriate encounter with the actor, at a press junket for his 2017 film, Going in Style.
Melas, who was six months pregnant at the time, claims Freeman looked her up and down while shaking her hand, and repeatedly said some variation of “I wish I was there,” as cameras rolled in front of his co-stars and other junket personnel. The reporter said she was later told that Warner Bros. HR could not corroborate the account because only one of Freeman's remarks was on video and the Warner Bros. employees present did not notice anything.
On Thursday, Freeman responded to the accusations in a statement to ET, saying, "Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am 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."
However, interview footage from past ET sit-downs with the Oscar-nominated actor shows more examples of questionable behavior by Freeman. In 2015, author and activist Janet Mock served as an ET special correspondent covering the actor's film, Five Flights Up. During their junket interview, Freeman addressed Mock’s appearance, saying, “I don’t know how you all manage to do that all the time.”
“You got a dress halfway between your knee and your hips, and you sit down right across from me and you cross your legs,” he continued.
Mock, who is currently writing and producing for Ryan Murphy’s new FX series, Pose, addressed the encounter in a statement to ET on Thursday, saying, “This interaction is an exhibition of the casual nature at which men in positions of power believe that everything belongs to them, including women’s bodies as they’re merely just trying to do their job.”
“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.”
See more on the allegations against Freeman in the video below.