In case you’ve forgotten, the allegations against former ABC News director, author, and MSNBC commentator Mark Halperin were really bad — violent, explicitly sexual, groping, exhibitionism — and they came from a dozen women. When Halperin departed the scene, he denied the allegations of violence and unwanted physical contact, but said he was “profoundly sorry for the pain and anguish I have caused by my past actions.” (Upon his departure from MSNBC, Mika Brzezinski declared, “I’ll speak for both Joe and myself here, our hearts break for Mark and his family because he is our friend, but we fully support NBC’s decision here.”)
Now Halperin is back in a way, with a new book to be published by Regan Arts, entitled, How to Beat Trump: America’s Top Political Strategists on What It Will Take. For the book, Halperin interviewed more than 75 top Democratic strategists.
Halperin’s accusers are understandably livid about his sudden seeming rehabilitation. This has quite a few people asking why anyone would be eager to help Halperin get back into the profession of political journalism. And the answer appears to be that most of the figures who agreed to talk to Halperin for his book simply forgot about the allegations, which surfaced all the way back in October 2017.
Former Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Washingtonian magazine she spoke with Halperin for his book because she was unaware of the allegations. Former Obama advisor David Axelrod said he answered Halperin’s email “without giving enough thought to how my participation would be used or interpreted,” and added, “I did not in any way mean to excuse his past, egregious behavior and, in retrospect, I regret responding at all.”
Former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm wrote on Twitter, “Spoke with him by phone once a few months ago about how to defeat Trump in the Midwest. Did not mean to hurt anyone, ever; should have done more research. My sincere apologies.”
Former Barack Obama spokesperson Ben LaBolt told the Daily Beast, “I treated it as a normal reporter call, but I should have revisited the accusations against him before taking the call.”
Here’s an absolutely fascinating development in #MeToo: A man accused of some really bad behavior can find himself back in the good graces of much of the political world — at least among high-profile Democratic campaign consultants — because everyone simply forgot about it, never heard about it, or didn’t think about it too much when he called.
It’s a frustrating reminder that news events that are well covered can be either missed or forgotten by seemingly well-connected and well-informed people. Recall that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a member of Congress and chair of the Democratic National Committee, appeared to have absolutely no idea about President Obama’s “kill list” for drone strikes months after it was on the front page of the New York Times.
One of the big debates surrounding the #MeToo movement since it arose in late 2017 was the question of whether it was going too far, or whether minor mistakes were generating career-ending penalties. If so many people who work in politics can forget or simply not care about the allegations about Halperin until a reporter calls up about it . . . what other infamous figures could make a comeback?