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Veteran political journalist Mark Halperin has been accused of sexual harassment by five women during his time at ABC News.
According to a CNN report Wednesday, the women allege that Halperin, while in a prominent role at ABC News, propositioned female employees for sex and kissed and grabbed the breasts of one woman against her will. Three of the five women also allege that Halperin pressed his erection against their bodies. Halperin denies groping the women’s breasts or pushing his genitals against the three women’s bodies.
Halperin, 52, who co-wrote the book Game Change about the 2008 election, which was later made into a HBO movie, currently works for NBC News as an analyst and is a regular pundit on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
In a statement to CNN, Halperin said: “During this period, I did pursue relationships with women that I worked with, including some junior to me … 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.”
The alleged harassment took place in the early 2000s, when Halperin was a political director at ABC News. CNN reports that none of the women reported directly to Halperin and one of the women was not an employee of ABC News at the time. Also, at no time did Halperin offer anything in exchange for sex or threaten retaliation against the women.
One woman said that she was invited to visit Halperin’s office in the early 2000s to have a soda, and said that while she was there he forcibly kissed her and pressed his genitals against her body. “I went up to have a soda and talk and — he just kissed me and grabbed my boobs,” the woman told CNN. “I just froze. I didn’t know what to do.” The woman left Halperin’s office shaken and told a friend at ABC News at the time what had happened.
A second woman, another ABC News employee, relayed how when she went to Halperin to ask about being embedded during the 2004 election 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.”
“I was obviously completely shocked. I can’t even remember how I got out of there — [but] I got out of there and was freaked out by that whole experience. Given I was so young and new I wasn’t sure if that was the sort of thing that was expected of you if you wanted something from a male figure in news,” the second woman told CNN.
A third woman told CNN that Halperin propositioned her for sex while they were out on the road together. “I excused myself to go to the bathroom and he was standing there when I opened the door propositioning [me] to go into the other bathroom to do something,” she said. “It freaked me out. I came out of the ladies’ room and he was just standing there. Like almost blocking the door.”
The fourth woman, who worked in a junior role to Halperin, said she felt like he had propositioned her while they were both working late at night on the campaign trail. She declined the proposition. And a fifth woman, who was not an ABC News employee at the time, told CNN that Halperin, while clothed, placed his erect penis against her body without consent.
All of the women spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity and said they were mindful of Halperin’s influence in the media and politics.
Both ABC News and NBC News have yet to comment on the allegations.
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Portia de Rossi
James Gordon Meek