Multiple women have come forward to accuse veteran political journalist Mark Halperin of sexual harassment, according to a report published by CNN on Wednesday evening. Halperin has since announced that he will be leaving MSNBC, admitting that his conduct was "inappropriate," while also denying the specific allegations.
The five unidentified women who spoke with CNN say the alleged harassment occurred while Halperin was working as the political director of ABC News. Their allegations have also been corroborated by women who did not personally experience the harassment.
Halperin, 52, is accused of groping multiple women, and pressing his genitals against them without consent. "I went up to have a soda and talk and—he just kissed me and grabbed my boobs," recalled one woman, who worked with Halperin in the early 2000s. "I just froze. I didn't know what to do."
Another woman, who was 25 years old and employed by ABC News at the time, described similar behavior by Halperin during the 2004 campaign cycle. "The first meeting I ever had with him was in his office and he just came up from behind—I was sitting in a chair from across his desk—and he came up behind me and [while he was clothed] he pressed his body on mine, his penis, on my shoulder," she told CNN. "I was obviously completely shocked." From the CNN report:
The women who worked with Halperin and who spoke with CNN did not report to Halperin. However, Halperin made many decisions about political coverage at ABC News, and had a voice in some critical personnel decisions. None of the women have said, though, that he ever promised anything in exchange for sex, or suggested that he would retaliate against anyone.
Still, while they no longer work with him, Halperin continues to wield influence in politics and media. The women who spoke to CNN said it was for this reason that they shared their accounts on the condition of anonymity. Others also said they still feel embarrassed about what happened to them and did not want to be publicly associated with it.
Halperin denied to CNN that he grabbed a woman's breast and pressed his genitals against others. But he also admitted on Wednesday that the women's allegations caused him to realize that his behavior was inappropriate.
"During this period, I did pursue relationships with women that I worked with, including some junior to me," Halperin said in a statement on Wednesday night. "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."
Prior to the report, Halperin was employed as a senior political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. He is one of the most well-known political analysts in national media, and his co-authored bestseller Game Change was made into an HBO movie starring Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin. He also made frequent appearances on "Morning Joe," where the allegations were briefly discussed on Thursday morning.
"CNN is reporting allegations regarding our friend Mark Halperin over a decade ago, unnamed sources detailing unwanted advances and inappropriate behavior,” Mika Brzezinski said. "Halperin apologized for the pain his actions caused... we will be following this story as it develops. I’m sure we will be talking about it again when we know more about it."