VISA stops Morgan Freeman commercials after sexual harassment report

Posted May 25, 2018 5:31 p.m. EDT
Updated May 29, 2018 3:48 p.m. EDT

Visa, the credit card company that has used Morgan Freeman’s voice in commercials for several years, announced Friday that it would stop broadcasting those advertisements after a report that Freeman had sexually harassed several women.

“We are aware of the allegations that have been made against Mr. Freeman,” a Visa spokesman said in a statement. “At this point, Visa will be suspending our marketing in which the actor is featured.”

The Visa statement followed a similar decision by the Vancouver, Canada, transit system to backtrack on a plan to use Freeman’s voice for some announcements over its loudspeakers.

It was still unclear on Friday to what degree Freeman, an Oscar winner who, at age 80, maintains a busy acting and voice-over career, would lose work as some other entertainers accused of misconduct have. But in another sign of his diminished stature, the Sreen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or SAG-AFTRA, told The Hollywood Reporter that the reported allegations were “compelling and devastating” and that it was reconsidering the lifetime achievement award it had given to Freeman earlier this year.

“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,” a union representative told the website.

In the report published by CNN, several women — including production assistants, office workers and journalists — said that Freeman had engaged in inappropriate behavior, ranging from unwanted touching to suggestive comments that made them feel uncomfortable. Some of those comments were caught on tape. One of those instances was with Chloe Melas, one of the CNN journalists who reported the article about the accusations. In the video, shot during a press tour for the 2017 film “Now You See Me,” Freeman is heard saying, “Boy, do I wish I was there,” directed at Melas, who was six months pregnant at the time. Melas said that other inappropriate comments had been made off camera.

In another instance, a production assistant on the movie “Going in Style” told CNN that Freeman “kept trying to lift up my skirt and asking if I was wearing underwear.”

On Thursday, Freeman issued a statement that said: “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 did not respond to a request for comment on Friday about the decisions by Visa to stop his commercials or by the union to reconsider his award.

Other companies with whom Freeman has recently worked did not respond to questions about his status on those projects. He has a film set for release on Nov. 2, “Disney’s Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” in which he plays Drosselmeyer, the maker of clocks and toys. Disney did not respond to a request for comment.

Freeman has two other movies in advanced stages of production: “Angel Has Fallen,” a sequel to the 2013 thriller “Olympus Has Fallen,” in which he reprises his role as the politician Allan Trumbull; and “The Poison Rose,” in which he plays a Texas crime boss. Millennium Films, the company behind “Angel Has Fallen,” and March On Productions, which is producing “The Poison Rose,” did not respond to queries.

Freeman’s deep and recognizable voice has been used to narrate numerous commercials, and he has appeared in some himself, including a Mountain Dew commercial that began running during this year’s Super Bowl. A spokeswoman for PepsiCo, Mountain Dew’s parent company, said the commercial had stopped running.