Mark Halperin

Name: Mark Halperin

Age: 52 (in 2017)

Role: Political analyst and NBC News and MSNBC contributor; formerly of ABC News (his employer when the sexual misconduct took place)

Halperin’s situation is notably different than almost all the other men who have been exposed by the 2017-and-beyond #MeToo era. This is because he called out his own behavior more than a decade ago, before anyone “caught” him, or accused him. He left ABC News, spent several years in therapy, and maintains that his professional relationships ever since were markedly different. Read his full statement below. 

It’s also notable however that several of his accusers are frustrated that while Mark has taken responsibility for some of what he did, he denies the remarkably similar instances of inappropriate physical contact they all report having experienced. 

They also feel that he hasn’t done enough to atone or make amends, or that he should be restored to his platform of power. They note that he hasn’t even attempted to apologize – much less make amends – to any of them privately. 

Accusations:

More than a dozen named and anonymous female colleagues accuse Halperin of harassment and assault – including sitting on his lap while having an erection, masturbating in front of them, and attempting to kiss and grope them against their will – during his tenure at ABC News beginning in the 90’s and into the mid 2000’s.

The two CNN articles below focus, unfortunately, on Mark; perhaps because for these 2 stories the accusers were mostly requesting anonymity. The Washington Post story does a better job of centering the 9 women they spoke to. 

‘I don’t want to sit on your lap,’ she thought. But, she alleges, Mark Halperin insisted, by Paul Farhi, Washington Post, Oct 26, 2017
Five Women Accuse Journalist Mark Halperin of Sexual Harassment, by Oliver Darcy, CNN, Oct 26, 2017
Four more women accuse Mark Halperin of harassment, bringing total to at least a dozen, by Oliver Darcy, CNN, Oct 27, 2017

Lara Setrakian was a junior reporter covering the 2006 midterm elections. Halperin was the political director for ABC News. She visited his office one day at his invitation to “talk politics.” Instead, according to Lara, “he kissed me and touched me inappropriately. I left that room shaken. I told some trusted colleagues but didn’t directly file a complaint. I was worried about the consequences of speaking out — just as many of my colleagues still are today.”

Lara continues: “I speak out now because I should have then. And because we need the broadcast industry — everyone in it — to acknowledge what happens to women in our newsrooms, including but beyond the physical abuse. Young television journalists in their 20s are often under intense pressure to look sexually attractive and physically flawless — as judged by their supervisors. Intense anxiety, self-loathing and eating disorders can ensue. With time, newswomen in their 30s and 40s can feel terrorized by the same pressure; it implies a “sell by” date to their time on air. Losing one’s sex appeal can mean losing one’s seat as a reporter. That fact stings even deeper when men can not only age gracefully, but lie, plagiarize, assault women and stay on air.”

Lara first told her story anonymously to CNN; shortly thereafter, she came forward publicly. Read Lara’s story in her own words here, in The Washington Post, Oct 27, 2017.

Dianna Goldberg May was a young researcher at ABC News in 1994 when Halperin called her into his office and invited her to sit on his lap. He had an erection. This happened 3 or 4 times. “I didn’t know what to do,” said May [the married name she now goes by], now a lawyer. “He was important. He wasn’t my superior, but he was certainly in a superior position to mine. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know how to at the time. I knew it was wrong.”
Read Dianna’s story here in The Washington Post, Oct 26, 2017 

Eleanor McManus writes that as a 21 year old recent college grad hoping to make a career in the media business, she reached out to Halperin for career advice and he asked her to come see him. “I was thrilled that someone from ABC News was willing to meet with me — perhaps that was my way in the door. It was my first official meeting; I even had to buy a suit for the occasion.

I don’t quite remember what we talked about, but I do remember him asking me to sit down next to him on the couch. I thought it was awkward to sit on the couch when I was perfectly comfortable sitting in the chair across from his desk. But I complied, and I also remember him sitting a little too close to me.

At one point I felt a bit too uncomfortable, and I stood up to thank him for the meeting. That’s when he leaned in, tried to kiss me, and attempted to do a bit more. I didn’t want to offend the man in charge of political programming at ABC News, and I tried to be courteous and apologetic, and practically ran out of the office.

Looking back, knowing what I know now, I should not have been so courteous and apologetic. I should have told him his actions were wrong and reported him to the ABC News HR department. But, as many have said before me, I was young and naive and didn’t want to ruin my career before it even began.

Read Eleanor’s full story here on CNN, Oct 27, 2017

Emily Miller wrote on Twitter and Facebook that she was “attacked” by Halperin when she worked for ABC News. In a second tweet in the thread she wrote, “I did not report Halperin to ABC because I thought I was the only one, and I blamed myself, and I was embarrassed and I was scared of him.”

Clarissa Ward is a CNN senior correspondent who once worked with Halperin at ABC News tweeted that Halperin’s bad behavior “was an open secret.”

Many more women told anonymous stories about Halperin:

  • Another former ABC News employee, who was about 25 at the time, said Halperin would frequently press his genitals against her, despite being rebuffed. He also propositioned her for sex on the 2004 campaign trail. 
  • Another former ABC News employee says that once when she went to the ladies room, she emerged to find Halperin standing just outside the door, almost blocking her. He suggested they go into the bathroom to have sex. 
  • While on the campaign trail in 2004, another ABC News junior staffer says that Halperin suggested they go up to her hotel room and have sex. 
  • An ABC News Desk assistant in her early 20’s asked Halperin for career advice. He invited her to his office after 10pm and sat at his desk, with her sitting in a chair across from him, and masturbated throughout their conversation. 
  • While an intern at the White House in the late 90’s, Halperin offered her career advice. They went to lunch in Manhattan, and at the end of it Halperin threw her forcibly against the glass window of the restaurant and tried to kiss her. 
  • While a desk assistant on “World News Tonight” in the fall of 2006, another woman says Halperin pursued her in the office. Trying to kiss her, asking her if she had a boyfriend – despite the woman rebuffing Halperin repeatedly. 
  • Another woman, while a 19-year-old intern in 1995, says Halperin offered to help her do research. He went with her into a tiny 1-person viewing booth in a museum, at which point she noticed he had an erection. She fled, while he called after her that they should get margaritas. 

Consequences:

Haplerin was fired from MSNBC on Oct 17, 2017; his contract with NBC News terminated on Oct 30, 2017.

Projects with Penguin Press, Showtime and with HBO have all since been canceled.

Halperin’s Response: 

Read his full statement from Oct 27, 2017 on Twitter. What follows is an abridged version of it.

“I am profoundly sorry for the pain and anguish I have caused by my past actions.

The world is now publicly acknowledging what so many women have long known: men harm women in the workplace. For a long time at ABC News, I was part of the problem.

Towards the end of my time at ABC News, I recognized I had a problem. No one had sued me, no one had filed a Human Resources complaint against me, no colleague had confronted me. But I didn’t need a call from HR to know that I was a selfish, immature person, who was behaving in a manner that had to stop.

For several years around my departure from ABC News, I had weekly counseling sessions to work on understanding the personal issues and attitudes that caused me to behave in such an inappropriate manner.

Those who have worked with me in the past decade know that my conduct in subsequent jobs at TIME, Bloomberg, NBC News, and Showtime has not been what it was at ABC. I did not engage in improper behavior with colleagues or subordinates.

Some of the allegations that have been made against me are not true. But I realize that is a small point in the scheme of things. I bear responsibility for my outrageous conduct at ABC News.

I hope that not only will women going forward be more confident in speaking up, but also that we as an industry and society can create an atmosphere that no longer tolerates this kind of behavior.

I know I can never do enough to make up for the harm I caused [but] I work to make amends and contributions both large and small.

Updates & Developments:

October, 2019: Mark sat down for an interview with Jennie Willoughby, the woman whose viral blog post, Why I Stayed, sparked the global hashtag #AndSoIStayed. The post was about the abusive marriage she stayed in for 4 years, to former Trump presidential aide, Rob Porter.

While Jennie said on the Solving #MeToo podcast that she believes Mark’s contrition is real, the final video was unfortunately edited in such a way that much of the empathy she felt and expressed for him has been stripped out.

August, 2019: Mark Halperin attempts a comeback with Trump Book, by Ed Pilkington, The Guardian

Like a number of other men who have fallen in the #MeToo era, Halperin has attempted to return to a public stage by putting himself forward for radio interviews, and launching a current affairs email service, World Wide of News.

But writing and launching book about how to defeat Trump in 2020 – some would call it a followup to his 2008 book about the election, Game Change – is a comeback on a whole different level.

The move has his accusers and other critics extremely upset.

“Until Mark demonstrates any understanding of how destructive his behaviors were to so many, he doesn’t deserve another platform. Those promoting this book, profiting from it and supporting Mark by speaking with him are on the wrong side of history.” Dianna Goldberg May
‘He doesn’t deserve another platform’; Mark Halperin’s new book deal blasted by sexual harassment accusers, by Tim Elfrink, The Washington Post, August 19, 2019

“He leveraged his position as a prominent journalist to prey on women. He has yet to take responsibility for his actions by apologizing to his victims or demonstrating genuine contrition. Giving him a book once again puts him in a position of authority and that is a slap in the face to all the women that he has victimized,” Eleanor McManus
Disgraced Pundit Mark Halperin’s Accusers Call New Book Deal a ‘Slap in the Face’, by Justin Baragona, Audrey McNamara and Maxwell Tani, Daily Beast, Sept 9, 2019

Their uproar has in turn caused many of the 75 people Halperin interviewed for the book back pedaling hard. Check out this exchange between David Axelrod (a Halperin interviewee) and Emily Miller, one of Halperin’s accusers.

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