Late last week, Morgan Freeman became the latest Hollywood star to be hit with sexual harassment claims in the #MeToo scandals. CNN broke the story on Friday, with eight individuals accusing Freeman of inappropriate behavior and eight more backing up their stories.
However, part of the story is coming into question after a video of one of the alleged incidents has re-emerged that seems to cast doubt on the account in the article.
This may only be one of eight, of course, which presents issues. However, there’s another huge detail which creates issues — it was perpetrated against one of the writers of CNN’s article, Chloe Melas, and the incident was apparently the impetus for the investigation to begin with.
“Chloe’s exchange, part of which was captured on tape, made her wonder if Mr. Freeman’s comments were an isolated incident or part of a bigger story, which she then began reporting,” a CNN reporter told The Wrap.
The story was described thusly in the CNN piece: “One of the three, CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas, the co-author of this article, says she was subjected to inappropriate behavior by Freeman more than a year ago, when she interviewed him at a press junket for ‘Going in Style.’ According to Melas, who was six months pregnant at the time, Freeman, in a room full of people, including his co-stars Arkin and Caine, shook Melas’ hand, not letting go while repeatedly looking her up and down and saying more than once a variation of, “I wish I was there.” She says he also said to her, ‘You are ripe.’ Cameras were on and recording during one of Freeman’s remarks to Melas — ‘Boy, do I wish I was there’ — but not for the rest. As is common practice with such junkets, Melas was the only CNN employee there at the time.”
That sounds fairly incriminating. However, when she appeared on TV and introduced the clip, things sounded quite a bit different.
Now, before we go on, let me emphasize this is one of eight accounts, even if it was the account that started the investigation. There are other things that Freeman has to answer for, and he has issued a sort-of apology — something innocent people don’t normally do.
However, in this case, it’s very clear that his comment is clearly directed at Michael Caine and the story he’s telling, not Melas. There’s almost no context in which Freeman could reasonably be seen to have been sexually harassing the reporter in the clip.
Yet, notice the fact that Melas is utterly adamant that this is video evidence of Freeman’s perverted behavior. She sets it up, she seems so angry that she can hardly speak, and… the clip proves that there’s nothing there.
This is not a remark on the guilt or innocence of Morgan Freeman or an intimation that, if Melas’ account of their encounter is false, the accusations against Mr. Freeman are false in toto.
However, Melas’ account forms a relatively significant part of the narrative and she was allowed co-authorship of the story even though she was part of the story (which sounds like a definite conflict of interest). The context of Caine’s remarks, which would have been completely exculpatory for Freeman in the case of the “Boy, do I wish I was there” comment, were left out.
If Freeman is guilty of the behavior specifically as described in the story, Melas has done a tremendous disservice to the rest of his victims by how her encounter with Freeman was reported on. And, if this standard of reporting was applied throughout the story, what’s to say that the rest of the encounters weren’t similarly exaggerated? This can’t even be put off as a “Rashomon”-like issue of perspective. I don’t find any particular interpretation of this particular clip that indicates he was talking about Melas.
Yet, CNN had this video and reported the story the way that it did. This is the ultimate problem with the #MeToo movement: It insists that the accuser be believed without any reservations. But what do you do when one of the victims — who also happens to be one of your reporters — is wrong? Or what if there’s evidence on video that presents a contradictory narrative, at the very least? Apparently, if you’re CNN, you just go right ahead with it.
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