Five women have come forward accusing journalist Mark Halperin of sexual harassment in incidents ranging from propositioning them for sex to kissing to grabbing one’s breasts against her will.
The report from CNN details that three of the five women described Halperin pressing an erection against their bodies, an accusation that Halperin has denied. He also denied touching one of the women’s breasts.
“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 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.”
Halperin currently works as an analyst for NBC News, making frequent appearances on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” According to the report, the alleged harassment took place while Halperin was the political director at ABC News in the early 2000s, though the women who were allegedly harassed did not report to him directly, and one was not an employee of ABC News at the time.
Though none of the women reported that Halperin requested sex in exchange for career advancement or that he threatened retaliation if they reported the behavior, many of the alleged incidents occurred in the workplace.
One women stated that she wanted to be an embedded reporter on the campaign trail during the 2004 election cycle, and reached out to Halperin, who helped make the decisions about such assignments at the time.
“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,” this woman told CNN. “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 women said Halperin continued to proposition her for sex during future visits and on the campaign trail.
“He would say, ‘Why don’t you meet me upstairs?’ And I would say, ‘That’s not a good idea.’ And he would push the request further,” the person said. “Eventually I would just ignore him and go about my business.”
The other women’s stories include an incident in which Halperin allegedly kissed a woman during a meeting in his office in addition to grabbing her breasts; Halperin blocking a woman’s path out of the restroom and suggesting they go into the other restroom to “do something;” asking a woman to go up to his hotel room with him, which the woman believed was a proposition for sex; and an incident in which Halperin allegedly placed his erect penis against a second woman’s body without consent.
All of the women requested anonymity due to Halperin’s continuing influence in the fields of politics and media, and some said they didn’t want their name associated with the situation.
Halperin is featured in Showtime’s “The Circus,” a show that chronicled the 2016 campaign cycle and the early days of the Trump presidency, and has a project in development with HBO. He also co-authored the book “Game Change,” with John Heilemann, which was adapted into an HBO film starring Julianne Moore.
Variety reached out for comment, but Halperin has had no additional response beyond the statement he gave to CNN.