Note her choice of words: “Attacked,” not “harassed.” Halperin’s response to the CNN story published about him this morning was to admit that he did sometimes “pursue relationships” with women who worked with him. We’ll see if Miller offers any details as the day wears on about what “pursuing a relationship” Halperin-style entails.
This makes six women who have accused him now, although the five Ed wrote about this morning all did so anonymously. Miller’s the first one to speak up under her own name.
I did not report Halperin to ABC because I thought I was the only one, and I blamed myself, and I was embarrassed and I was scared of him.
— Emily Miller (@emilymiller) October 26, 2017
Did anyone at ABC know what he was up to? Of course, says Clarissa Ward of CNN:
— Clarissa Ward (@clarissaward) October 26, 2017
A friend in media also used the term “open secret” recently when chatting with me about Halperin. If it’s an open secret, why didn’t anyone say anything? Well, defamation law, for one thing. Any story, even one told by a trusted friend, could conceivably be a lie. It’d be hard for a public figure like Halperin to win a slander suit, but if you’re a single individual accusing him publicly of something as grave as a sexual offense on the say-so of a third party, you’re rolling the dice. Even if you win the suit, the legal fees to defend it could be ruinous. Meanwhile, imagine the ordeal you’d be forcing on your friend, the victim, who may not want to speak publicly about the incident for fear of professional repercussions or emotional pain in reliving the experience. Your friend might say that in the end it’s none of your business and that she’ll tell the story herself when she’s good and ready. What do you say to that?
On the other hand, if there’s any industry theoretically well-suited to expose the predators in its midst, it’s journalism. Exposing harassers in other industries will be harder since the sources in those cases are all strangers, many of whom will clam up instinctively when approached by a reporter. But media people know other media people. Collectively they know who can be trusted, who’s up to no good, who’s been victimized. It should be a relatively simple thing to connect a reporter who’s willing to expose harassers with other reporters or media-industry personnel who’ve experienced the harassment. Journalists are trained to find the key players in a scandal, reach out inconspicuously, and put them on record, and they know what sort of sourcing is needed to make a story defamation-proof for First Amendment purposes. Granted, not every victim will speak out, but how can it be that *no one* was able to put together a critical mass of Halperin accusers until now, many years after the alleged misconduct at ABC occurred? If we’re going to kill Ben Affleck and Matt Damon for never whispering to reporters about Weinstein and putting them in touch with some victims, it’s fair to wonder why the entire journalism industry collectively couldn’t muster a big scoop on Halperin or Leon Wieseltier or Roger Ailes for years. Was it the victims who were cowed by their power or the reporters who might otherwise have written the exposes or both?
I think this thread by Bethany Mandel, recounting her own experience with an abusive rabbi, explains it. Mandel knew several of the rabbi’s victims and pleaded with them to come forward. Even though there was strength in numbers, no dice:
Halperin’s accusers may have refused to talk until now in the belief that, even with multiple accusations against him, it wouldn’t have dented his career and he’d remain well positioned to retaliate against them. Megyn Kelly made that point last night too: If you strike at the king, you best not miss. Pre-Alies, there was every reason to believe you’d miss if you spoke up. Bill O’Reilly already had six settlements under his belt by the time Fox News finally cut him loose, after all. The “critical mass” in this case isn’t so much the number of women who’ve accused Halperin but the number of powerful men who’ve been accused lately of bad behavior: Ailes, Weinstein, O’Reilly, Toback, Wieseltier, and of course the president of the United States. Increasingly if a woman speaks up she’s likely to be believed. (Although not in Trump’s case, it seems.) Maybe that’s why it took so long for the Halperin accusers to come forward. Until now, they may have thought, it would have done them more harm to say something than it would have done him.
Here’s an uncomfortable-looking Emily Miller debating Halperin on gun control years after the alleged incident between them. I wonder when he’ll be back on “Morning Joe” again, if ever.