Shortly after five women accused MSNBC political commentator Mark Halperin of sexual harassment, MSNBC suspended his role as a contributor while HBO canceled production of a miniseries based partly on Halperin’s work during the 2016 presidential election. Although Halperin denied physically assaulting his former coworkers, he admitted to committing inappropriate actions and misconduct.
On Wednesday, a CNN report revealed Halperin allegedly groped, propositioned for sex, and pressed his genitals against several female colleagues while working at ABC News more than a decade ago. Four of the women worked with Halperin at ABC during the alleged harassment, while the fifth victim did not work at ABC News but accused the journalist of placing his erect penis against her body without consent.
“During this period, I did pursue relationships with women that I worked with, including some junior to me,” Halperin said in a statement to CNN on Wednesday night. “I now understand from these accounts that my behavior was inappropriate and caused others pain. 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.”
According to the first woman, Halperin invited her to his office during the early 2000s when he was political director at ABC News. Instead of discussing work, Halperin allegedly kissed her without consent and pressed his clothed genitals against her body.
“I went up to have a soda and talk and – he just kissed me and grabbed my boobs,” the woman recalled. “I just froze. I didn’t know what to do.”
A second female coworker told CNN, “The first meeting I ever had with him was in his office and he just came up from behind – I was sitting in a chair from across his desk – and he came up behind me and [while he was clothed] he pressed his body on mine, his penis, on my shoulder. I was obviously completely shocked. I can’t even remember how I got out of there – [but] I got out of there and was freaked out by that whole experience. Given I was so young and new I wasn’t sure if that was the sort of thing that was expected of you if you wanted something from a male figure in news.”
While working on the road with Halperin, a third woman remembered, “I excused myself to go to the bathroom and he was standing there when I opened the door propositioning [me] to go into the other bathroom to do something. It freaked me out. I came out of the ladies’ room and he was just standing there. Like almost blocking the door.”
Despite the fact that Halperin never threatened to retaliate against these women and never offered anything in exchange for sex, the five women claimed they never filed complaints against him due to embarrassment and fear of retribution. In light of the recent allegations against Harvey Weinstein and many others, the women chose to tell their stories to CNN without publicly revealing their identities.
In a statement from ABC News, a spokesperson confirmed, “Mark left ABC News over a decade ago, and no complaints were filed during his tenure.”
“We find the story and the allegations very troubling,” MSNBC said in a recent statement. “Mark Halperin is leaving his role as a contributor until the questions around his past conduct are fully understood.”
Appearing frequently as a political commentator on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Halperin has been suspended from the network. On Thursday, HBO decided to drop a miniseries focusing partly on Halperin’s work during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“HBO is no longer proceeding with the project tied to the untitled book co-authored by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann on the 2016 Presidential election,” the Time Warner-owned premium-cable outlet said in a statement. “HBO has no tolerance for sexual harassment within the company or its productions.”
Once revered as a highly respected journalist, Halperin has fallen to the lowly depths of other alleged and admitted sexual predators, including deceased Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, pundit Bill O’Reilly, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, director James Toback, director Oliver Stone, Amazon Studios chief Roy Price, comedian Bill Cosby, and more prominent figures expected to be named in the near future. Regardless of political affiliation, perpetrators of sexual assault must be exposed to prevent these crimes from occurring again or potentially escalating into violence against the victims.