Five women have accused veteran journalist Mark Halperin of sexual harassing them while working at ABC News, CNN reports. Working with MSNBC and NBC News as a political analyst before harassment reports broke, Halperin previously served as political director at ABC News and co-authored the 2010 book Game Change, a comprehensive account of the 2008 presidential election.
The anonymous women, four of whom were ABC employees at the time of their experiences, took to CNN to discuss inappropriate encounters with Halperin. At least three women described a clothed Halperin pressing his erection against their bodies without the women’s consent. Although Halperin was in charge of determining ABC’s political coverage, none of the women worked directly under Halperin. Their experiences mostly occurred in the early 2000s.
Veteran journalist Mark Halperin has been accused by five women of sexual harassment during his tenure as political director at ABC News. pic.twitter.com/MLxeDBblJp
— HuffPost (@HuffPost) October 26, 2017
“The first meeting I ever had with him was in his office,” a woman said about her experience with Halperin during the 2004 presidential campaign cycle. Only 25 years old at the time, she turned to Halperin with a wish to be a traveling campaign reporter for ABC. “He just came up from behind…and [while he was clothed] he pressed his body on mine, his penis, on my shoulder. I was obviously completely shocked…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.”
The same woman said that over time, Halperin continued his advances, which she repeatedly turned down.
None of the women reported the incidents once they occurred, citing fear of retribution as the reason for not doing so. Upon the story’s release, ABC News said in a statement, “Mark left ABC News over a decade ago, and no complaints were filed during his tenure.”
After working at ABC News since the late 1980s, Halperin left the company in 2007 for a position at Time. On Wednesday night, he released a statement explaining his actions, but denied initiating nonconsensual contact with women. “During this period, I did pursue relationships with women that I worked with, including some junior to me,” he said. “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.”
In wake of the harassment reports, MSNBC has confirmed that Halperin will leave his positions at the NBC network. Penguin Press has also scrapped plans for him to co-write another political book, which would have covered the 2016 election.