This morning, many film fans were shocked to learn that one of the world's most recognizable and beloved actors, Morgan Freeman, has joined the ranks of famous men who have recently been accused of sexual harassment and assault.
According to CNN, 16 women have come forward with allegations against the Oscar-winning actor.
Eight of them claim to be victims affected by his inappropriate behavior, while the others said that they have witnessed his alleged misconduct.
"He did comment on our bodies..."
One of the accusers interviewed by CNN, worked with Freeman as a production assistant on the set of the 2017 comedy Going in Style.
She revealed that Freeman would regularly comment on her figure and touch her without consent.
In one incident, she said, Freeman "kept trying to lift up my skirt and asking if I was wearing underwear." He wasn't able to lift her skirt, but he would keep trying even after she moved.
She said that his co-star "Alan [Arkin] made a comment telling him to stop. Morgan got freaked out and didn't know what to say."
It appears that Freeman's alleged troubling behavior is not something that only occurred recently.
A female senior production staffer who worked on the set of Freeman's 2012 film Now You See Me, also backed up these allegations.
"He did comment on our bodies... We knew that if he was coming by ... not to wear any top that would show our breasts, not to wear anything that would show our bottoms, meaning not wearing clothes that [were] fitted," she said.
The women who have accused the 80-year-old have either worked with him on movie sets or at his production company, Revelations Entertainment.
A "toxic" work environment
Freeman founded the company with Lori McCreary in 1996, and they have been responsible for many projects, including films like Invictus and the CBS show Madam Secretary.
A female manager at Revelations said that 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.”
She continued, "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. 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.'”
The accusers claim that despite the impressive work the company has been doing, the work environment has been "toxic."
But it wasn't just the women who noticed the way Freeman was behaving.
One of his former male employees told CNN that Freeman acted like "a creepy uncle."
"One time I witnessed Morgan walk up to an intern and start massaging her,” he said. “The intern got visibly red and wiggled out of his grasp. It was awkward.”
The victims didn't report him out of fear of losing their livelihoods, but with the rise of the empowering #MeToo movement, they felt comfortable enough to speak out now.
Apparently, the writers at the company joked "that Morgan would be the next person to be called out," after the Harvey Weinstein scandal came to light last year.
Mere hours after the shocking allegations were reported, the A-list actor has released a statement of apology to anyone who may have felt "uncomfortable or disrespected" by him.
"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, now 80, said in a statement sent to The Associated Press by his publicist, Stan Rosenfield. "I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected — that was never my intent."
McCreary has not addressed these allegations, but she isn't a stranger to Freeman's controversial comments.
While at a Produced By conference in 2016, Freeman made some brow-raising comments about his first meeting with his business partner.
“She wants to be thought of as serious,” Freeman said of McCreary, who was also a part of the panel. “But you can’t get away from the short dresses.”
The actor was later confronted by Today Show's Samantha Guthrie about his surprising remarks, but he replied, “It was just something I said in jest about when I first met her, it was more than 20 years ago. How is that news?”
He may not have considered it a big deal, but a former executive at the company said that McCreary was very upset and hurt by the comments.
“I tried to console her and she was clearly upset, and I think she was surprised and found it hurtful and embarrassing,” they said. “She was devastated.”
However, the CNN report also revealed that there's another side to McCreary.
Allegation against McCreary
While she appears to be supportive of the #MeToo and Times Up movements in public, behind closed doors, those who have worked with McCreary said she isn't nearly as supportive.
Two former senior level Revelations employees said McCreary would make fun of women who wanted to leave work early to attend to family commitments or school functions. She believed that her employees couldn't handle large workloads because they always had to "run home" to their children.
Following CNN's exposé, the Producers Guild of America released a statement confirming that an investigation into McCreary's behavior was carried out and the allegations have "no merit."
"The Producers Guild of America is an Equal Opportunity Employer that does not question or consider marital or parental status in its hiring practices," read the statement. "As soon as CNN notified us about the allegation, we investigated the matter and have found that it has no merit. Lori McCreary is an outstanding PGA President. In all of her work with the Guild, she has been a consistent, vocal, and proactive advocate for women and all who are underrepresented in our community."
As for Freeman, it's unclear what the future holds, but from what we've seen so far, this could be the beginning of his downfall.
Will these allegations stop you from watching Freeman's films? Let us know in the comments!