EXCLUSIVE: After an independent investigation of sexual harassment allegations against Morgan Freeman, SAG-AFTRA said it will not rescind the Oscar-winning actor’s SAG Life Achievement Award – the union’s highest honor. The award was presented during this year’s SAG Awards.
“Based on the results of an independent investigation and the information we have at this time, we are taking no action regarding the SAG Life Achievement Award presented to Morgan Freeman,” the union said Thursday in a statement to Deadline. “As always, the details of the investigation are confidential.”
SAG-AFTRA launched the investigation in May following a CNN report that said that eight women had come forward with allegations “they were victims of what some called harassment and others called inappropriate behavior” by Freeman. In the wake of the report, the union said it was considering “corrective action” with regard to the award, which was presented just a month before the union released a Sexual Harassment Code of Conduct that “sets forth clear expectations that SAG-AFTRA members will refrain from engaging in harassing conduct.”
“These are compelling and devastating allegations which are absolutely contrary to all the steps that we are taking to insure a safe work environment for the professionals in this industry,” the union said in the wake of the allegations against the Oscar-winning actor. “Any accused person has the right to due process, but it is our starting point to believe the courageous voices who come forward to report incidents of harassment. Given Mr. Freeman recently received one of our union’s most prestigious honors recognizing his body of work, we are therefore reviewing what corrective actions may be warranted at this time.”
The allegations against Freeman included unwanted touching and inappropriate comments he made at his production company, Revelations Entertainment, and while promoting his movies. CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas, who authored the article for the cable outlet, said she was subjected to inappropriate behavior by Freeman when she interviewed him at a press junket for Going in Style. According to Melas, who was six months pregnant at the time, Freeman shook her hand in a roomful of people and wouldn’t let go “while repeatedly looking her up and down and saying more than once a variation of, ‘I wish I was there’” and telling her “You are ripe.”
Freeman quickly apologized, but said it was never his intention to harass anyone. “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.”
He then followed up with a more emphatic statement: “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.”
National Geographic, meanwhile, which had suspended production of Freeman’s The Story of God in order to investigate the allegations, announced this month that production of the show would resume after clearing him any inappropriate behavior on the show.
“Through production on critically acclaimed series The Story of God and The Story of Us, we have valued a longstanding relationship with Morgan Freeman,” the network said. “When we learned of recent allegations surrounding Mr. Freeman completely unrelated to our work with him, as a precaution we paused production on our new season in order to complete a thorough investigation led by our parent company Fox, executed through an independent investigator. The results of this investigation revealed no incidents of concern during any of our work with Mr. Freeman. We have now made the decision to move forward with the production of season three of The Story of God…As a company, we take all issues of harassment very seriously and we’re confidently assured by the results of the investigation.”
Freeman lost his longtime sponsorship with Visa amid the controversy, but he recently was named a lifetime honoree at this year’s Deauville American Film Festival in France.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.