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TransLink pauses campaign featuring Morgan Freeman after allegations surface

VANCOUVER — Metro Vancouver's transit authority is pressing pause on a promotional campaign featuring Morgan Freeman, following a report detailing allegations of misconduct against the actor.

TransLink said in a statement Thursday that it has decided to halt public announcements voiced by Freeman that had been set to play in the transit system as part of a Visa Canada advertising campaign.

"In light of information we've learned this morning of allegations regarding actor Morgan Freeman, TransLink has decided to pause his voice announcements," the statement said.

"We will be reaching out to Visa to discuss further."

The allegations are based on a story from CNN, which said it spoke to 16 people about Freeman; eight said they had experienced harassment or inappropriate behaviour , and eight said they had witnessed such conduct. The reported allegations include making comments about women's bodies and unwanted touching.

After the allegations were made public, Freeman issued a statement through his publicist apologizing to anyone who may have felt "uncomfortable or disrespected" by his behaviour, saying that was never his intent.

The actor's distinctive voice was to be broadcast for a limited time at certain SkyTrain stations and bus routes in Vancouver to encourage commuters to tap their Visa cards as part of TransLink's recently launched "contactless" payment system, which accepts credit cards and mobile wallets.

Visa Canada said in a statement Thursday that it is "aware of the allegations that have been made" against Freeman.

"At this point, Visa will be suspending our marketing in which the actor is featured," spokeswoman Jessica Culp said in an email.

Freeman narrated a series of online ads posted on the credit card company's YouTube page touting the new "tap-to-pay" feature, sharing local trivia and reminding riders about transit etiquette.

"Did you know that California rolls were invented in Vancouver?" he says in one video. "If you're off to the latest sushi spot, know that you can now tap your Visa to go anywhere TransLink takes you."

As the controversy unfolded Thursday, Vancouver-raised comedian Seth Rogen offered to lend his voice to local transit.

"If they need a replacement now let me know," Rogen tweeted. TransLink replied to the actor on Twitter, offering to start a direct-message conversation.

Freeman won the 2005 Oscar for best supporting actor for "Million Dollar Baby." He was nominated four other times, including for "Driving Miss Daisy" and "The Shawshank Redemption," and is renowned for his prolific voiceover work.

— with files from The Associated Press.

The Canadian Press