Will sex assault allegations finally erase the journalistic blight of Mark Halperin?

NBC News' star commentator has now been accused of inappropriate behavior by 8 separate women. Game changer?

Published October 27, 2017 6:26PM (EDT)

Mark Halperin      (AP/Sue Ogrocki)
Mark Halperin (AP/Sue Ogrocki)

Political reporter and author Mark Halperin is the latest man in media to be revealed as a lout. After CNN reported that five separate women had accused him of various acts of sexual harassment — including allegedly pressing his erect penis against one of them —  Halperin's many employers have been frantically distancing themselves from him. Even so, the oleaginous and oft-wrong pundit's many years of flattering higher-ups means we may not be rid of his presence.

NBC News, Halperin's primary employer, announced that he was "leaving his role as a contributor" shortly after the news broke. "We find the story and the allegations very troubling," the network said in a Thursday statement within hours of the CNN report. HBO, which had paid Halperin for film rights for his books on the 2008 and 2016 elections, also announced that it was terminating its relationship with him.

Halperin admitted to sexually harassing co-workers during his time as an executive at ABC News in a statement of his own.

“During this period, I did pursue relationships with women that I worked with, including some junior to me. I now understand from these accounts that my behavior was inappropriate and caused others pain,” Halperin said. “For that, I am deeply sorry and I apologize. Under the circumstances, I’m going to take a step back from my day-to-day work while I properly deal with this situation.”

After the initial news broke, several other women came forward to accuse Halperin of harassment.

In a separate essay for CNN, producer Eleanor McManus wrote that being sexually assaulted by Halperin almost made her not want to pursue a career in journalism.

"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. I was upset not by his actions, but the thought that I did something wrong to encourage that behavior. Was my suit too revealing? Did I lead him on? Was this what I had to expect if I went into broadcast news or journalism? If so, I didn’t want any part of it."

News executive Lara Setrakian, whose initial statement to CNN broke the dam on the allegations, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed on Friday that the fact that Halperin was allowed to get away with his behavior is indicative of "how fearful our culture remains":

I felt like an idiot walking out of Halperin’s ABC News office in November 2006. He was running our midterm election coverage; I was assigned to it as a junior reporter, one year into my job. He praised my professional work and invited me to his office to talk politics over a Diet Coke. When I got there, 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.


While it's looking like thus far that Harvey Weinstein's career in a long-delayed comeuppance, Halperin is still getting public sympathy, despite his serial predations on women.

On Thursday and Friday, MSNBC "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski has repeatedly referred to Halperin as "our friend." That's not exactly a surprise considering that he's spent the better part of the show's existence trying fervently to suck up to Brzezinski and her fiancé Joe Scarborough despite his long record of abusing people who couldn't help his career.

Perhaps that is why Brzezinski received a special shout-out in Setrakian's op-ed:

MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski taught me an important lesson in her book “All Things at Once.” She said we can’t let our jobs become a “bad boyfriend,” something that takes the best of us, abuses us and doesn’t give us due credit for what we contribute. The news industry, riddled with abusive habits that we have normalized and internalized, risks becoming that “bad boyfriend.” We need to break these habits — for the future of our profession and for one another.

On Friday, former MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann accused his one-time colleague Joe Scarborough of having "covered up" Halperin's behavior.

"I never even met Halperin and even I knew the guy brought the rep of Sleazebag with him from ABC," Olbermann wrote on Twitter. "@joenbc didn’t? LOL."

Showtime, yet another media company which has been inexplicably interested in associating itself with Halperin's brand of sucking up to Donald Trump, reciting conventional wisdom, and making bad predictions has not yet ended its relationship with him.

“During Mark’s time working with us, we have not seen nor have there been allegations of any untoward behavior," the premium tv network said in a tepid statement. "We are aware of these reports and will continue to evaluate all options should we decide to move forward with another season of The Circus.  There is no tolerance for sexual harassment within Showtime and its productions.”

Halperin's publisher, Penguin Press, took a much better approach in a news release announcing it had canceled its plans to publish yet another presidential election tome.

"In light of the recent news regarding Mark Halperin, the Penguin Press has decided to cancel our plans to publish a book he was co-authoring on the 2016 election," the company said in a statement.

Halperin's poor quality journalism ought to have been reason enough to get him banned from television. It's a shame that it took the revelation that he is a serial sexual predator to remove him from the media scene.

Knowing Halperin, however, he's already plotting a comeback. In fact, he's already mocked the idea of how anyone can come back from a sex scandal:



By Matthew Sheffield

A writer, web developer, and former tv producer, Matthew Sheffield covers politics, media, and technology for Salon. You can email him via m.sheffield@salon.com or follow him on Twitter.

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