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Mark Halperin apologizes for ‘crude and aggressive’ behavior as harassment accusations mount

Mark Halperin, seen here in 2016, said on Friday that he feels “profound guilty and responsibility” for his past conduct toward women. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
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The prominent political journalist Mark Halperin apologized for “aggressive and crude” behavior in a lengthy note Friday night as women continue to come forward with claims of harassment.

Halperin, 52, said he had read his accusers’ accounts, and “in almost every case, I have recognized conduct for which I feel profound guilty and responsibility, some involving junior ABC News personnel and women just starting out in the news business.”

“I am profoundly sorry for the pain and anguish I have caused by my past actions,” he wrote. “I bear responsibility for my outrageous conduct at ABC News.”

‘I don’t want to sit on your lap,’ she thought. But, she alleges, Mark Halperin insisted.

Halperin’s statement was released around the same time that CNN, which had first reported on allegations by five women, published a story with the accounts of four more women, all anonymous, who said the veteran journalist harassed or made unwanted contact with them while he was in a position of authority over them at ABC News. Halperin denied some of the accusations against him.

Lara Setrakian, the chief executive and executive editor of the digital media outlet News Deeply, wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post on Friday in which she said Halperin kissed and touched her during a meeting.

The Post spoke with nine women who said they were aware of, or had directly experienced, unwanted contact by Halperin over a period dating to the mid-1990s.

They described conduct that ranged from grabbing women’s hands to late-night phone calls and aggressive sexual propositioning. Several recounted episodes in which he rubbed his erect penis against them, which Halperin specifically denied in an interview. Another woman who worked with Halperin said “he did a lot of inappropriate and creepy things. He would suggest that you come to his hotel room at late hours. He would call you at 2 in the morning — and not to discuss anything work-related.”

The women who spoke to The Post said Halperin was at his most aggressive during the 2004 campaign, when he was in charge of ABC News’s political coverage. As political director for the ­Disney-owned network, he was empowered to select the embeds, a low-level position but an important step in a highly competitive business.

Halperin, in a brief interview Thursday, denied some of the specific accusations against him.

Opinion: I’m one of Mark Halperin’s accusers. He’s part of a bigger problem we need to fix.

After leaving ABC News, he worked for Bloomberg Politics and NBC, and he co-wrote “Game Change,” the best-selling chronicle of the 2008 presidential campaign, which was made into an HBO movie. He also co-hosted a discussion program on Bloomberg TV titled “With All Due Respect” and starred with “Game Change” co-author John Heilemann in a Showtime series about the 2016 campaign, “The Circus.” Until Thursday, he was a regular panelist on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

The fallout has been swift for Halperin, one of the most prominent political journalists in the country. Halperin was put on leave as an MSNBC contributor. A book in the works about the 2016 election has been dropped by its publisher, Penguin, while HBO canceled a miniseries it was working on with the journalist.

Halperin is one of a growing number of men in powerful positions in various industries — media, film and restaurants, to name a few — to find themselves in the spotlight after women have accused them of harassment in recent weeks.

In his apology, Halperin said he realized he had a problem with the way he treated women, eventually seeing a therapist. He said his conduct improved at other workplaces.

“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,” he said.

Paul Farhi contributed to this report. 

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