The morning after five women accused veteran journalist Mark Halperin of sexual harassment while he was in a powerful position at ABC News, two more women came forward with their own allegations.
Those initial five accusers recounted sexual misconduct ranging in nature “from propositioning employees for sex to kissing and grabbing one’s breasts against her will,” CNN reported. “Three of the women who spoke to CNN described Halperin as, without consent, pressing an erection against their bodies while he was clothed.”
Halperin denied some of the allegations listed in Wednesday evening’s story, but added, “I now understand from these accounts that my behavior was inappropriate and caused others pain.”
And then another set of accusers emerged the following day.
“#MeToo,” conservative author and reporter Emily Miller wrote Wednesday night on Twitter, directly responding to the CNN report. She later explained: “To be clear, I was NOT one of the victims in this story about Mark Halperin. I was ANOTHER junior ABC employee he sexually assaulted.”
Without specifically describing her encounter with the pundit, Miller elaborated: “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.”
Miller did not respond to The Daily Beast’s requests to further share her story, but she was the first to publicly go on-record as having allegedly experienced sexual harassment by the Game Change author.
Another journalist, who currently appears as a commentator across multiple networks, joined the chorus on Thursday, telling The Daily Beast that the accusations against Halperin rang familiar to her own experience. She said he made unwanted advances at her while they worked together at ABC News more than a decade ago.
And like Miller, this accuser, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly, was not among the five women who spoke to CNN.
The woman had worked with Halperin on ABC’s now-defunct digital-news outlet, and, at the time, having recently come from outside the industry, recalled hoping to impress her powerful political reporter colleague.
She said Halperin initially began with flirtatious chit-chat, eventually descending into more uncomfortable territory—including the “occasional lecherous grin” or an obvious look at her breasts while passing in the hallway.
One day, she recalled, Halperin invited her to his office for what she believed to be a professional meeting. She arrived to a completely empty room. “I was about to sit down to begin the meeting, and he closed the door, and all of the sudden was standing right in front of me—so close he was basically touching me.”
The woman further recounted: “He started lunging at me and I had nowhere to go. I told him something like, ‘Don’t do that,’ and said ‘I’m not comfortable with the door closed,’ but he had backed me into a corner. I opened the door and ran out.”
She said Halperin never threatened to retaliate after that incident, but noted that while she avoided him as much as possible, he returned to making casual passes at her. “Just shameless,” she said. “It felt like it was normal for him. You got the sense that it was like he’d get what he wanted if he tried enough.”
Oddly enough, the woman also recalled, around the same time, Hollywood mega-producer Harvey Weinstein gave her his card at a private event and told her: “If you’re really interested in acting, give me a call.” (The New York Times, The New Yorker, and other outlets have since reported countless allegations of Weinstein using private professional meetings as opportunities to sexually harass or assault women.)
At the time the initial CNN story went live on Wednesday evening, multiple mainstream news outlets (including, in the interest of full disclosure, The Daily Beast) had already started working on similar stories on Halperin. The CNN report and Halperin’s statement provided to the network, unfortunately, did not come as a surprise to many in national media circles.
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.”
CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward tweeted Thursday morning of the accusations against Halperin: “This was an open secret when I was at @ABC for years- brave of these women to speak up.”
Halperin did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday afternoon.
Additionally, CNN political analyst Mary Katharine Ham, a friend of Emily Miller’s, confirmed that Miller told her of the alleged sexual assault years ago.
Ham explained to The Daily Beast that word of Halperin’s allegedly frequent misconduct had become so pervasive that she refused to participate in a taping of Showtime’s The Circus political documentary—hosted by Halperin—for fear of invoking Miller’s story without her consent during a conversation on Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tape—in which the future president bragged about being able to grab women “by the pussy” because of his star power.
The allegations have already taken a heavy toll on Halperin’s career, as he was forced to leave his job as a senior political analyst at NBC News and MSNBC for the time being at least.
“We find the story and the allegations very troubling,” MSNBC said in a statement. “Mark Halperin is leaving his role as a contributor until the questions around his past conduct are fully understood.”
Furthermore, HBO decided on Thursday not to collaborate with Halperin on a planned miniseries based on his upcoming Game Change sequel about the 2016 presidential election. “HBO is no longer proceeding with the project tied to the untitled book co-authored by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann on the 2016 Presidential election,” an HBO spokesman told The Daily Beast in a statement.
“HBO has no tolerance for sexual harassment within the company or its productions,” the statement concluded. HBO, which previously turned the first Game Change book on the 2008 election into an acclaimed film, green-lit the new project earlier this year, stating that “we are thrilled to continue our relationship with Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, whose work on their bestselling book ‘Game Change’ set the bar for political reporting and storytelling inside a presidential campaign.” High-profile Hollywood talent such as director Jay Roach and producer Tom Hanks were attached to the planned miniseries on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s election-year fight.
The decision to kill this big-name project came in less than 24 hours after the Halperin story broke. It was clear that HBO executives felt compelled, especially in a post-Harvey Weinstein environment, to make a clean break as quickly as possible, instead of monitoring the situation.
Halperin and Heilemann’s third Game Change book was set to be published by Penguin Press. The publisher’s press shop did not respond to multiple requests for comment about if their plans have changed.
Publicly, Halperin, for his part, has been seemingly contrite.
“During this period, I did pursue relationships with women that I worked with, including some junior to me,” Halperin said in a statement to CNN that published on Wednesday evening. “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.”