Like many actors and Hollywood personalities before him, Morgan Freeman has answered to allegations of sexual misconduct. The Academy Award-winning actor was hit with devastating accusations on Thursday of inappropriate behavior with women. Freeman wrote a statement to the New York Times on Friday that apologized to his accusers, while minimizing the severity of his behavior to that of other #MeToo abusers.
Freeman led the statement by saying he was "devastated" by the allegations, noting that his legacy was "at risk of being undermined, in the blink of an eye, by Thursday’s media reports."
Freeman went on to expresses solidarity with the #MeToo movement, before trying to exculpate himself from any serious wrongdoing.
"All victims of assault and harassment deserve to be heard. And we need to listen to them," Freeman wrote. "But it is not right to equate horrific incidents of sexual assault with misplaced compliments of humor."
The actor acknowledged that he has made comments or jokes that seemed innocent or "light-hearted" in his mind in the attempt to make women and men feel "at ease" around him." Freeman conceded in the statement, however, that his behavior may have been interpreted differently.
"And that is why I apologized Thursday and will continue to apologize to anyone I might have upset, however unintentionally," Freeman said.
"But I also want to be clear: I did not create unsafe work environments," the actor continued. "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."
CNN reported Thursday that eight individuals had accused Freeman of unwanted touching and inappropriate comments. CNN spoke with 16 individuals as part of its investigation, eight of whom alleged they were victims or witnesses of Freeman's inappropriate behavior. One alleged victim, a production assistant who worked on the film "Going In Style" with Freeman, said the actor "kept trying to lift up my skirt and asking if I was wearing underwear." He allegedly tried this repeatedly until co-star Alan Arkin make a comment. "Morgan got freaked out and didn't know what to say," the former assistant recalled.
Freeman's apology, released late Friday, does not appear to have addressed this incident, as he claimed to have never created an "unsafe "work environment. He tip-toed around the more serious allegations entirely, comparing his charges to those of the more heinous variety, a la Harvey Weinstein. Perhaps Freeman's statement was a flat out denial to media reports, a difficult conclusion to arrive at considering the ambiguity of his apology.
Overall, Freeman's statement may appease some of his fans. The actor did not lament the effects of the #MeToo movement. He did not scream "witch hunt." If there were a hierarchy of apologies in regards to the #MeToo movement, Freeman's may top those of fellow actor Kevin Spacey or comedian Louis C.K.
Spacey famously came out as gay in his apology, a blatant attempt to distract from the allegations against him. Louis C.K., meanwhile, expressed remorse for hurting women who "admired" him, an assertion he made three-too-many times in his statement.
The fate of Freeman's legacy is probably not yet set in stone. But maybe it should be. The actor's fame and beloved screen presence may afford him some protection. That's the power of celebrity in America today. Maybe not tomorrow or in the years to come, however.