It seems we’re headed towards Weinstein territory here, maybe not in terms of the severity of the offenses but in the industry-wide extent to which the offenses were known and concealed. Another conspiracy of silence born of fear.
How many people knew? And did they know how bad it was? The Daily Beast spoke to a seventh Halperin accuser, who worked with him on the digital side of ABC years ago, who claims that he invited her to an office for a meeting, closed the door, and then “started lunging” at her. She said she was backed into a corner before finally scrambling to the door and leaving. You might categorize that as “harassment,” but what would it have been if she hadn’t been able to get to the door?
How many people knew?
According to numerous sources at NBC, MSNBC, ABC, and Bloomberg—who previously spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely—the private allegations of Halperin’s sexual misconduct were an open secret, particularly in New York City and D.C. political media, for many years.
People just didn’t feel emboldened to talk or speak out, in part due to Halperin’s position of power in the industry.
“Everybody knew [about Mark],” one prominent cable-news host told The Daily Beast. “I’d been warning young women reporters about Mark for a long time.”
Halperin became political director at ABC in 1997 then moved over to MSNBC as a contributor in 2010. If his behavior was an open secret, why did NBC bring him into the building? Why was he a regular on “Morning Joe”? The same criticism Fox is getting for re-signing O’Reilly earlier this year applies here. If you have reason to believe that a male employee will cause trouble for your women staffers, you don’t place him in their midst.
Emily Miller, the one Halperin accuser who’s gone on the record, hasn’t followed up (yet) with any details of what happened but this afternoon she did retweet this item that was posted 11 days ago. She doesn’t explicitly say that the mystery man here is Halperin but the fact that she’s republishing the item while she’s at the center of the news about him speaks volumes:
That's totally untrue. A top exec at a TV broadcast network held me down and tried to force me to have sex. I was young and blamed myself. https://t.co/6RAFwbMSVx
— Emily Miller (@EmilyMiller) October 16, 2017
There’s a word for what she describes there, and it ain’t “harassment.”
One curiosity: In all of the Halperin accusations today, there’s no claim that he promised to advance someone’s career if they slept with him or threatened to harm their career if they didn’t. Even the seventh accuser who spoke to the Daily Beast says Halperin never threatened retaliation when she spurned him. I note that not because it minimizes the alleged offenses — read that Miller tweet again — but because it makes it harder to understand the industry silence about his behavior. Harvey Weinstein was an intimidating figure in every way: Physically imposing, fabulously rich and well connected, possessed of a legendary temper. He threatened people routinely. If you had exposed his misconduct you would have had every reason to expect some pain in return, whether financial, professional, or maybe even physical. And he evidently made sure that the people around him knew it. There’s none of that with Halperin. He’s reasonably wealthy from his books and he did have some power as a big cheese at ABC News but he wasn’t even warning people of repercussions if they crossed him. Given all of that plus the reality of how open the “open secret” apparently was, why wasn’t our fearless woke-ified media willing and/or able to piece together this story about him from the many people he interacted with in the industry over the past 20 years?
Makes me wonder if the conspiracy of silence wasn’t being driven by fear of Halperin himself but fear among news outlets who might otherwise have broken this story that characters like him within their own ranks would be exposed in return. Blowing up Halperin could mean mutually assured destruction.