Less than two years ago, after multiple women accused Mark Halperin of sexual harassment and physical assault, the political commentator lost his TV gigs and an HBO project based on “Game Change,” his best-selling book about the 2008 presidential election. Now, Politico reported, he has a deal for a book about the 2020 race featuring interviews with dozens of Democratic strategists.
On Sunday, critics slammed Halperin and the publisher, Regan Arts, suggesting the pundit hasn’t done enough to atone, leaving several of his prominent sources expressing regret that they’d cooperated for the project.
“Until Mark demonstrates any understanding of how destructive his behaviors were to so many, he doesn’t deserve another platform,” Dianna Goldberg May, who has accused Halperin of repeatedly harassing her as a researcher at ABC News in 1994, told The Washington Post. “Those promoting this book, profiting from it and supporting Mark by speaking with him are on the wrong side of history.”
Halperin, who has denied any unwanted physical contact but apologized for “behavior” that was “inappropriate and caused others pain,” didn’t immediately return a message about the book, called “How to Beat Trump: America’s Top Political Strategists on What It Will Take,” due out in November. His publisher, Judith Regan, cast the project as a second chance and called it an “important, thoughtful book.”
“I do not in any way, shape, or form condone any harm done by one human being to another. I have also lived long enough to believe in the power of forgiveness, second chances, and offering a human being a path to redemption,” the head of Regan Arts told Politico.
Halperin, 54, was one of the biggest names in journalism to fall during a spate of #MeToo accusations that also abruptly ended the careers of Bill O’Reilly, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer and others, but he also has been among the first to seriously attempt a comeback, with satellite radio appearances and a recently launched blog about current events.
Before the accusations in October 2017, Halperin had been a political media powerhouse, working at ABC News, Bloomberg Politics and NBC News and co-writing “Game Change,” about Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. But in the wake of claims against disgraced movie executive Harvey Weinstein, numerous women came forward to accuse Halperin of unwanted touching, inappropriate comments and aggressive behavior toward female colleagues.
NBC, MSNBC and Showtime all dropped Halperin because of the accusations, and HBO canned a planned miniseries adapted from “Game Change” and based on the 2016 election. Like O’Reilly and Lauer, Halperin laid low after the #MeToo claims. But that has changed this year, as The Post’s Paul Farhi reported, with Halperin returning to Twitter, writing a blog and appearing on CNN contributor Michael Smerconish’s SiriusXM Radio show.
The would-be comeback has come amid an outcry from his accusers, who questioned why any organization would return him to a position of power and influence. Those concerns were amplified Sunday with news of his book deal.
“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,” McManus said in a statement. “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.”
Press Forward, a group founded by McManus, May and Lara Setrakian, another journalist who said Halperin harassed her, and devoted to fostering “safe and civil” workplaces, said the book deal casts doubt on the credibility of the news industry.
“Americans will continue to lose trust in the news media if a journalist who covers scandals can commit the same crimes he reports on and face no serious consequences,” the organization said in a statement.
Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News Channel host whose lawsuit helped expose widespread sexual assault and harassment allegations against network chief Roger Ailes, suggested Halperin’s deal showed a double standard for harassers and victims.
“Because enough time has passed the accusations don’t matter?” she tweeted. “The majority of women who’ve been harassed don’t make such grandiose comebacks. In fact most never work again.”
Halperin’s new book boasts interviews with more than 75 Democratic operatives, Politico reported, including former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod, strategist and Fox News contributor Donna Brazile, and Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary under Obama. Critics and #MeToo activists demanded answers from many of the sources for why they agreed to work on the project.
Axelrod noted that he’d known Halperin for 25 years and answered three questions by email “without giving enough thought to how my participation would be used or interpreted.”
“By answering Halperin’s questions, I did not in any way mean to excuse his past, egregious behavior and, in retrospect, I regret responding at all,” he wrote on Twitter.
Jennifer Granholm, a former Democratic governor of Michigan, apologized and said she hadn’t read deeply enough into the project before responding.
“Spoke with him by phone once about how to defeat Trump in the Midwest,” she tweeted. “Did not mean to hurt anyone, ever; should have done more research. My sincere apologies.”
Others stood by their decision, though. Brazile told the Daily Beast that although she supports those who “will never cease to admonish” Halperin, she thought it was important to share her strategies to help Democrats win back the White House.
“I wanted to go on the record with my answers about how to defeat Trump,” she said. “Many of my friends today are disappointed that I answered Mark’s call, but I did so after he understood where I was coming from."
Paul Farhi contributed to this report.