Mark Halperin, the well-known pundit accused of sexually harassing fellow ABC News staffers, also allegedly made unwanted advances on potential new recruits, including a college student and a journalist hoping to work with him.
In a series of reports this week, Halperin has been accused by former co-workers and subordinates of sexual misconduct, ranging from “lecherous” grins and innuendos to unwanted touching—groping, lunging at, and kissing women—to pressing his erection against women while clothed to masturbating in front of a woman in his office.
Halperin’s apparently fake interest in young women’s careers and very real interest in getting in their pants also extended to undergraduate students he was supposed to be enlightening.
While the star pundit issued a contrite statement Friday evening claiming the misconduct ended after he left ABC News, one woman recounted to The Daily Beast a particularly uncomfortable run-in with Halperin at her alma mater in February 2011—years after Halperin left ABC.
Katharine Glenn was then a student at Tulane University when she was a 20-year-old junior preparing to take the LSAT. Now working as a First Amendment lawyer, she said that she wanted her story told in the hopes that it helps ensure that Halperin “never gets near [female] college students ever again.”
Shortly after Halperin came to her class as a guest speaker on American politics and media, a dinner party was thrown at the house of James Carville and Mary Matalin, the famous political-operative couple. Roughly 15 students attended.
“We were seated next to each other randomly during the dinner, we were chatting, and he got very friendly and put his hand on my upper thigh,” Glenn said.
“[He] was talking to me about helping me with my career, and that I shouldn’t go to law school and should come to DC and be a journalist or work on the Hill,” she continued. “He offered that I should come back to his hotel room [that night] so we could talk more about my career—and at no point did I think that is what he meant, and the touching under the table did not suggest that, either.”
She added that before she even had the chance to reject Halperin’s proposition, an assistant interrupted and suddenly whisked him away from the party.
“It was gross, kind of pathetic,” she continued. “He had no bearing on my career, so I wasn’t scared, just sort of grossed out… ‘Go find someone your own age,’ I thought. He was twice my age. It was all lecherous and gross.”
According to two sources who were present at the time, Halperin made such inappropriate overtures to at least two female students during his swing through Tulane—not just Glenn. In one instance, an adjunct professor named Mike Sherman “intervened,” as one ex-student described, while Halperin was making unwanted advances towards a female student.
Sherman declined to comment, but Tulane spokesman Michael Strecker sent The Daily Beast the following statement: “This is the first we are hearing of this incident, but the behavior described is not something we would ever tolerate from a guest speaker. We are looking further into this matter.”
Halperin did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
One other woman alleged on Friday that Halperin made inappropriate sexual overtures to junior-level political journalists who were seeking positions under him.
Speaking to The Daily Beast anonymously in order to discuss the matter candidly, the woman, now a media publicist, said she met Halperin when she was a journalist seeking a job covering the campaign trail with him during the 1996 presidential race.
She initially met with Halperin at his ABC office for an interview, and when she followed up with him afterward, he allegedly invited her to meet him in a hotel room on Central Park South. “Not at the hotel, it was specifically ‘in my hotel room,’” the woman emphasized.
She recounted “playing dumb” by responding, “Why do you want to meet me in a hotel room?” Halperin never responded and the woman never got a job with ABC News.
“It’s sickening,” she lamented. “He knew how valuable these jobs were and used his position to pimp for himself.”
The two women join at least 12 separate accusers who spoke to CNN, The Daily Beast, and The Washington Post this week.
As The Daily Beast reported on Thursday, Halperin’s misconduct was an open secret among the New York and D.C. political reporting circles.
“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.” CNN reporter Clarissa Ward said on Twitter: “This was an open secret when I was at @ABC for years- brave of these women to speak up.”
The Disney-owned news outlet, for their part, denied any knowledge of Halperin’s alleged misconduct: “While Mark left ABC News over a decade ago and no complaints were made during his tenure, we hold everyone at ABC News accountable for their behavior and how they conduct themselves,” the network wrote. “We know that our people do their best work in an environment where they feel respected, safe and supported. Harassment or retaliation of any kind is never acceptable. We take these issues seriously and encourage employees to come forward so we can address them immediately.”
FoxNews.com reported Thursday that employees insist management—most of whom have long moved onto other outlets—were aware of the many allegations. One source claimed Halperin’s behavior was often reported to then-ABC News president David Westin.
“During my time at ABC News, we vigorously pursued any allegation of sexual harassment involving our employees, investigating it promptly and taking action whenever warranted,” Westin replied in a statement to Fox. “No complaint, formal or informal, concerning his actions ever came to me.”
However, a broadcast-news insider told The Daily Beast, “a number of people absolutely went to management.” He added: “Mark was too politically connected, and so he was considered untouchable.”
On Friday evening—two days after his accusers began coming forward—Halperin released a long, apologetic statement, posting it to Twitter.
“Many of the accounts conveyed by journalists working on stories about me or that I have read after publication have not been particularly detailed (and many were anonymous) making it difficult for me to address certain specifics,” his statement reads. “But make no mistake: I fully acknowledge and apologize for conduct that was often aggressive and crude.”
He claimed that after he left ABC, he began weekly counseling sessions after acknowledging “I had a problem.” He claimed: “My conduct in subsequent jobs at TIME, Bloomberg, NBC News, and Showtime has not been what it was at ABC.”
Many accounts, of course, have been on the record—some graphically detailed—and Glenn’s account suggests that Halperin’s lecherous behavior did, indeed, continue after he departed ABC News.