Early Thursday, NBC News said in a statement: “Mark Halperin is leaving his role as a contributor until the questions around his past conduct are fully understood,” the network reported. On “Morning Joe,” Mika Brzezinski said: “We are going to be following this story as it develops I’m sure we are going to be talking about it again when we know more about it.”
The women accused Halperin, former political director at ABC News, of propositioning employees for sex and grabbing one woman’s breasts without her consent. Three women told CNN he pressed an erection against them while he was wearing clothes.
In a statement to CNN Wednesday night, Halperin apologized for his actions and said he would be taking a “step back” from his daily work to “properly deal with this situation.”
“During this period, I did pursue relationships with women that I worked with, including some junior to me,” Halperin told CNN, though he denied grabbing a woman’s breast and pressing his genitals against women.
“I now understand from these accounts that my behavior was inappropriate and caused others pain,” he said. “For that, I am deeply sorry and I apologize.”
The allegations described in the CNN report took place in the 1990s through the mid-2000s. The women who spoke to CNN did so on the condition of anonymity because Halperin continues to hold a position of power in the politics and media industries, according to CNN.
Those women who worked with Halperin at ABC News did not report directly to him, but still felt he wielded influence at the network. Because they feared retribution or felt embarrassed, they did not report the harassment allegations to management, according to CNN.
Some of the women detailed times in which Halperin allegedly made inappropriate sexual advances while on the campaign trail. One of them said he came up behind her during a meeting in his office and pressed his body against her. Though she said she rejected the advance and “got out of there,” she told CNN he “continued to express a sexual desire for her in subsequent visits,” propositioned her on the campaign trail and kept hugging her.
“ . . . I was so young and new and 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 the news.”
“ . . . He would say, ‘Why don’t you meet me upstairs?’ And I would say, ‘That’s not a good idea.’ And he would push the request further,” the woman told CNN. “Eventually I would just ignore him and go about my business.”
Halperin is the latest well-known man to be implicated in sexual harassment charges since allegations poured forth against film producer Harvey Weinstein earlier this month. Exposés in the New York Times and the New Yorker regarding Weinstein’s alleged predatory behavior opened the floodgates. In the weeks and days since, scores of women have come forward with accusations against other men in influential roles in Hollywood and beyond. Accounts of sexual harassment of assault have emerged in the restaurant, music, fashion, media and other industries.
Halperin has previously faced moments of controversy in his career, though none as potentially damaging as the newly reported allegations.
In 2011, MSNBC suspended Halperin after he appeared on “Morning Joe” and called President Barack Obama a word that begins with “D” and is “synonymous with a part of the male anatomy,” as The Washington Post described at the time. Both MSNBC and Halperin apologized to Obama, the White House and their viewers.
Then, in 2015, Halperin faced intense criticism for an interview he conducted with presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) on his Bloomberg program “With All Due Respect.” He asked Cruz whether he’d listed himself as Hispanic in his applications to Princeton and Harvard Law School and asked him whether he had a “favorite Cuban food” or “favorite Cuban singer.” Halperin later apologized for the questions, which many viewed as inappropriate and offensive.