Harvey Weinstein, the man who triggered the seemingly endless parade of Hollywood sex scandals and subsequent #MeToo campaign, has been arrested and charged with rape.
Weinstein turned himself into the police and appeared in court where he pleaded not guilty to charges including first and third-degree rape and a criminal sex act in the first degree. Despite around 80 separate allegations, the charges relate to just two unidentified women, one of whom is thought to be former actress Lucia Evans. But even as Weinstein appears about to get his comeuppance, yet another movie star has been tarred with the sexual predator brush; this time, showbiz favorite Morgan Freeman.
Freeman’s velvety tones and grandfatherly demeanor have lent him the gravitas to become a Hollywood heavyweight, but according to recent allegations, he is the latest in the long line of predators.
It has been reported that 16 anonymous victims and witnesses have spoken out, alleging that Freeman had committed sexual harassment ranging from the relatively mild, such as lewd staring and suggestive comments about employees’ bodies, to the more serious accusation of attempts to lift their skirts.
One production assistant on the film Going in Style said that she was subjected to months of harassment on set that eventually caused her to leave the film industry. She said Freeman “kept trying to lift up my skirt and asking if I was wearing underwear” on set, until “Alan [Arkin] made a comment telling him to stop. Morgan got freaked out and didn’t know what to say.”
This isn’t the first time Freeman has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior. He was previously accused of having an affair with his step-granddaughter E’dena Hines, although no evidence came to light. The two were not blood relatives; E’dena was the granddaughter of Freeman’s first wife but was adopted at a young age by Freeman, who raised her with his second wife, Myrna Coley-Lee. However, during a messy divorce in 2008, Coley-Lee revealed that Freeman had begun an inappropriate sexual affair with the teenage E’dena, the National Enquirer tabloid alleged.
In 2012, Freeman was forced to deny rumors that he and E’dena planned to marry, despite their family relationship and an age difference of over four decades, calling the claims “fabrications.” E’dena also publicly denied the rumors: “These stories about me and my grandfather are not only untrue, they are also hurtful to me and my family.”
In 2015, E’dena was murdered at the age of 33, stabbed by her ne’er-do-well boyfriend Lamar Davenport, who was attempting to exorcise her while under the influence of drugs. Davenport’s defense lawyers alleged in court that shortly before the murder, E’dena “disclosed to Davenport and others that her grandfather engaged in a sexually inappropriate relationship with her.”
Now to introduce Lori McCreary, Freeman’s 22-year business partner with whom he co-founded the production company Revelations Entertainment. At a speech in 2016, Freeman publicly recalled their first meeting: “She had on a dress cut to here.” He continued, “She doesn’t want to be thought of as a pretty face, she wants to be thought of as serious. But you can’t get away from the short dresses.” McCreary was reportedly upset by the remarks, but her long working relationship with Freeman brings up yet again the question of male and female enablers without whom the Freemans and the Weinsteins could not continue to abuse their powerful positions.
McCreary has publicly supported the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, but it seems unlikely that she had no inkling of Freeman’s behavior, if the allegations against him are true. She was profiled as one of the industry’s most powerful women by the Hollywood Reporter, where she said that the best thing to come out of the Weinstein scandal was “that it shines a light on something almost all women, and some men — in all industries — experience. And we now have a real chance to change the culture in Hollywood and around the world.” As co-president of the Producer’s Guild of America (PGA), McCreary was instrumental in getting Harvey Weinstein banned from the organization and also put together a task force to develop new guidelines for professional conduct among producers to promote gender parity in the industry.
Alleged sexual predators like Weinstein and Freeman are the public face of Hollywood’s power problems, but the danger is that those complicit in the creation of a toxic environment continue to work behind the scenes, all the while displaying a falsely shocked and alarmed face to the public.
Freeman has made a typically evasive public apology and Weinstein awaits trial, but what of the many Hollywood drones who have continued to scurry about the hive? Will #MeToo and Time’s Up be enough to detox an entire industry where the successful say one thing and do another? On the other hand, Weinstein seemed oddly calm and confident attending court – could it be he intends to upset the honeypot and take some powerful players down with him?