Visa has announced that it is suspending its marketing campaign with Morgan Freeman after a CNN investigation that unearthed a pattern of alleged sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour by the actor.
"We are aware of the allegations that have been made against Mr. Freeman. At this point, Visa will be suspending our marketing in which the actor is featured," the company told CNN on Thursday, 24 May. The company uses Freeman’s voice in its commercials, apart from featuring him.
TransLink, the Vancouver public transit system said that it would be pausing its current ad campaign which features Freeman’s voice.
On Thursday, the Academy award-winning actor was accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, according to a report by CNN. In an interview with CNN, a young production assistant describes the morbid details that the Million Dollar Baby actor subjected her to.
She has alleged that Freeman “subjected her to unwanted touching and comments about her figure and clothing on a near-daily basis”. According to the report, Freeman would rest his hand on her lower back or rub her lower back.
Freeman has reportedly tried to “lift up” her skirt on several occasions, unsuccessfully.
Until Alan Arkin told Freeman to stop. The 80-year-old then “freaked out and didn't know what to say”.
Freeman in a statement to Sky News said: "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 apologise to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected - that was never my intent.”
Another senior member of the production staff of the film Now You See Me (2012) told CNN that Freeman would comment on their bodies and what they wore on the sets.
CNN spoke to 16 people, eight of whom were victims and eight who witnessed Freeman’s inappropriate behaviour. Lori McCreary, co-founder of Freeman’s enterprise, Revelations Entertainment alleges that she was a victim of Freeman’s “demeaning comments in a public setting”.
All the people who have accused the actor said that they did not report the inappropriate behaviour because they risked losing their own jobs. Instead they came up with “ways to combat the alleged harassment on their own, such as by changing the way they dressed when they knew he would be around.”
Entertainment journalist of CNN, Chloe Melas says she has also been subjected to inappropriate behavior by Freeman when she interviewed him for Going in Style.
Melas, who was six months pregnant at the time, said Freeman shook her hand, not letting go, in a room with his co-stars Arkin and Caine. According to Melas, he “repeatedly looked her up and down, saying more than once a variation of, “I wish I was there.”” She says he also said to her, “You are ripe.” And on-camera, too, he said, “Boy, do I wish I was there”.
Six of his former employees said they witnessed Freeman's behaviour. One woman who was a manager at Revelations told CNN that sometimes Freeman would "come over to my desk to say hi and he'd just stand there and stare at me. He would stare at my breasts."
"If I ever passed him he would stare at me in an awkward way, would look me up and down sometimes stopping and just staring," she said. "One time he stopped, looked me up and down as I walked into a room of people, and everyone burst out laughing. And I literally froze feeling very uncomfortable and one of the people in the office said, 'Don't worry, that's just Morgan.'"
“That sort of interaction was when I stopped wearing a skirt around the office when he was there,” said the former manager. “I can’t say it was an accident that I’d be wearing a potato sack and a ponytail on certain days when he was there and do my best to avoid him when he was in the office.”
"One time I witnessed Morgan walk up to an intern and start massaging her" shoulder, said a male emplyee about his behaviour. "The intern got visibly red and wiggled out of his grasp, it was awkward."
Two other entertainment reporters have also accused him of making inappropriate remarks during press junkets.
Scores of women on sets described Morgan’s inappropriate behaviour and fixation on the way they dressed to CNN.
The accusations against Freeman are part of a long line of allegations of sexual harassment against men in powerful positions that have come up in recent times in Hollywood.
The pattern of keeping quiet about these incidents was first broken when multiple allegations were made public about Harvey Weinstein’s repeated harassment of women, which kicked off the #MeToo movement as more and more women in Hollywood started speaking up about their own experiences in the industry. The movement gained worldwide attention as women everywhere started using the hashtag to talk about their own experiences of sexual harassment.
After the revelations about Weinstein’s conduct, several other actors in Hollywood, such as Kevin Spacey, Aziz Ansari and Michael Douglas have been accused of sexual assault, sexual harassment and abuse as the industry opens up about its dark secrets.