Political analyst and author Mark Halperin, 52, joins the ever-growing list of powerful men accused of alleged sexual harassment in recent weeks. In a CNN report published Wednesday night, five women claimed Halperin sexually harassed them while working at ABC News as a political director. The NBC News analyst denies allegations that he grabbed a woman's breast and pressed an erection against other women without consent.
However, Halperin said the following in a statement to CNN:
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.
In light of the new allegations, it's worth revisiting Halperin's 2016 comment that people should be "skeptical and question the timing" of the allegations of sexual assault against Donald Trump.
Much like disgraced filmmaker Harvey Weinstein's statement after claims were published that he allegedly sexually harassed and assaulted dozens of women over the years (Weinstein has repeatedly denied all non-consensual encounters), Halperin apologized for behaving inappropriately while denying specific allegations of sexual harassment. And looking back at his response when others were accused of alleged sexual misconduct could help illuminate how he views the subject.
In an appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe in October 2016, Halperin spoke to co-host Joe Scarborough about the surfacing claims that then-presidential candidate Trump allegedly sexually assaulted two women years ago (Trump has vehemently denied the allegations). Scarborough and Halperin agreed that people should question the timing of the allegations, as it was less than a month before the 2016 presidential election.
While Scarborough clarified that he didn't suspect the allegations were false, the conversation still reeked of victim blaming. Scarborough asked why Trump's accusers had waited decades to come forward, and Halperin agreed that the timing should raised concerns. Halperin disagreed with co-host Willie Geist that it seemed like an "oppo drop" (meaning Geist believed Hillary Clinton's campaign planned to publicize the alleged claims right before the election), but Halperin didn't push back on the other men's theory that the alleged victims should have come forward sooner.
"Sexual assault and sexual harassment are never OK," Jodi OmearRape, vice president of communications for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network tells Bustle. "RAINN stands with survivors, and it's important that their voices be heard. As a society, we must work together to ensure every professional environment is one of safety and respect."
Whether the conversation centers around a prominent politician, a powerful film producer, a well-known journalist, or an average person, questioning why alleged victims don't speak up about their experiences sooner removes part of the blame from the accused and places it on the accuser. Only about one in three sexual assaults are reported to the police, according to data from RAINN. Similarly, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission estimates that only between 6 and 13 percent of people harassed at work file a formal complaint.
Women don't come forward about sexual harassment and assault for a myriad of reasons, including humiliation, fear that they won't be believed or nothing will be done, and fear of retaliation. And if any time has passed, there's also the fear that people will ask why the accuser didn't come forward sooner, which Halperin's skepticism proves is a valid concern for women.
Decades-old allegations are a common thread in the claims against Trump, Weinstein, and Halperin. The five women accusing Halperin of sexual harassment told CNN of alleged inappropriate touching and propositions for sex that took place from the 1990s to the mid-2000s.
But unlike Trump, who was eventually elected president, Weinstein was forced out of his company and Halperin will take time off from NBC News and MSNBC's Morning Joe after allegations against them were made public (Bustle has reached out to NBC News for comment).
"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."