Once the dam breaks, the waters keep flowing. The harassment scandal involving NBC’s Mark Halperin keeps growing, as more women come forward to accuse the author and analyst of continuing abuse and inappropriate contacts. The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi spoke with nine women who described very similar and chronic patterns of behavior — at least at ABC News. Dianne Goldberg, now an attorney, went on the record:
Dianna Goldberg was a young researcher at ABC News in 1994 when she asked a colleague, Mark Halperin, for some information about a story. He readily agreed to help her and asked her to come to his office.
Close the door, he said when she arrived. Come over here, he said, seated at his desk. Sit down and I’ll give you the information, he said. He motioned to his lap.
“What?” she remembers thinking. “I don’t want to sit on your lap.” But Halperin was the political director of the network, a rising star who was highly regarded by ABC’s management, including “World News Tonight” anchor Peter Jennings. Goldberg, who now goes by her married name, May, thought that refusing him could injure her career.
She reluctantly agreed and sat down briefly. Halperin, she recalled on Wednesday, had an erection.
That appears to be a consistent modus operandi for Halperin, as CNN’s sources for their Wednesday evening report accused Halperin of pressing his erections against them as well. That qualifies as an assault, not just mere harassment, but Halperin stands accused of a range of behaviors that include very strange phone calls at odd hours, invitation to hotel rooms, and personal conversations that left women disturbed. “It was yucky,” one remarked, “just gross.”
Allahpundit noted one point that hadn’t been raised with Halperin that’s commonly seen in other harassment cases — any hint of retribution or extortion. Perhaps that was left more unspoken. Farhi’s sources say that Halperin reached a peak of aggression in 2004, when he had the authority to assign plum embed jobs on campaigns — roles that mostly went to attractive young women:
Out of roughly 60 people who were interviewed for 13 positions, Halperin selected 11 women — all of them young, attractive, well-educated and ambitious.
“It was a big deal to get chosen by someone so powerful,” one woman said. “When you’re 23 or 24 and you get to cover a presidential election and report to him — yeah, that’s a big deal.”
Among this circle, and the larger campaign press corps, Halperin’s misbehavior was “an open secret,” according to Clarissa Ward, a CNN reporter who formerly worked at ABC.
Some of this sounds familiar to the Harvey Weinstein scandal, in tactics but not to Weinstein’s extreme. However, there’s one key dissimilarity, which is that the pattern seems to stop abruptly after Halperin left ABC — at least as far as we know now. Both the CNN and Washington Post stories involve only Halperin’s time at his previous network, not NBC. Given the breadth of the reports and the lack of any apparent consequences, one would normally expect the patterns to continue until the perpetrator gets caught.
Did he get caught? Is there an NDA or two floating around, and if so, was that at ABC or on his next gig at NBC? Or did Halperin reform himself without ever having to suffer a single negative consequence for his behavior? It’s possible, if unlikely.
Meanwhile on Morning Joe, where Halperin regularly contributed until this week, Mika Brzezinski offered a stronger statement than yesterday. While their “hearts break” for Halperin and his family, “we are going to cover the story,” she pledges while endorsing NBC’s decision to suspend Halperin:
There’s something I need to say. Over the past 24 hours, there have been more disturbing reports regarding Mark Halperin’s treatment of younger female co-workers. The behavior in these reports allegedly occurred one to two decades ago, and now we’re looking at it, we’re talking about it.
Mark and Karen have been a part of Morning Joe’s extended family for years. They’re our friends and we believe it’s important to stand with our friends through even the most difficult of times. But it’s even more important to demand the truth even when the facts appear to be extremely painful. Yesterday morning, we woke up to reports that of unnamed sources telling CNN that Mark made unwanted sexual advances and overtures toward them. A day later, more revelations pointing to a possible pattern of unacceptable conduct.
I’ve spoken to and heard from some of these women. I feel their pain and understand the difficult position they were in because I’ve been through enough in this business to know what I hear. We are at a pivotal moment in history where unacceptable harassing behavior towards women will no longer be swept under the rug. And yes, we do remain a nation of laws where everyone is considered innocent until proven guilty, and nothing has been proven or adjudicated here. But, we’re also missing a larger movement of women speaking up about sexual harassment, because the fear of being dismissed or not believed is melting away.
I’ll speak for both Joe and myself here — our hearts break for Mark and his family, because he is our friend. But we fully support NBC’s decision here. We want to know more about these disturbing allegations, we want to hear the stories, we need to know what happened. And we’re not going to avoid the story just because he’s our friend. We’re going to cover it, and we’re going to pray for everyone involved.
Well said. It will be interesting to see what happens if allegations from Halperin’s time at NBC emerge. Mika and Joe may want to cover it at that point, but NBC might have more to say if they try. The network didn’t exactly cover itself in glory with the Weinstein story, after all, and if this becomes about behavior in their own offices, don’t expect them to get any more courageous.