Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski paused the program a second consecutive day to address viewers directly about the absence of show regular Mark Halperin. The powerful figure in political punditry was noticeably absent Friday, as on Thursday, after CNN on Wednesday night reported several women claimed he sexually harassed and/or abused them one and two decades ago when he was a political chief at ABC News.
NBC News suspended him on Thursday pending investigation, a day in which more women came forward, while ABC News issued a statement insisting “harassment or retaliation of any kind is never acceptable.”
“Over the past 24 hours there have been more disturbing reports regarding Mark Halperin’s treatment of younger female workers. Behavior in these reports allegedly occurred one to two decades ago and now we’re looking at it,” Brzezinski began. “We’re talking about it. Mark and Karen [Avrich] have been part of Morning Joe’s extended family for years. They’re our friends.
“Yesterday morning we woke up to reports of unnamed sources telling CNN that Mark made unwanted sexual advances and overtures to them. A day later, more revelations point to a possible pattern of unacceptable conduct,” Brzezinski continued.
“I’ve spoken to, and heard from, some of these women. I feel their pain and I understand the difficult position they were in, because I’ve been through enough in this business to know what I hear.
“We are at a pivotal moment in history where unacceptable harassing behavior toward women will no longer be swept under the rug. And yes, we do remain a nation of laws where everyone is considered innocent until proven guilty. And nothing has been proven or adjudicated here.
“But we’re also witnessing a larger movement of women speaking up about sexual harassment, because the fear of being dismissed, or not believed, is melting away.
“I will speak for both Joe and myself here: Our hearts break for both Mark and his family, because he is our friend. But we fully support NBC’s decision here. We want to know more about these disturbing allegations. We want to hear the stories. We need to know what happened. And we’re not going to avoid the story just because he’s our friend…we’re going to cover it and we’re going to pray for everybody involved.”
In addition to Halperin’s NBC suspension, HBO canceled the miniseries about the 2016 presidential election that was to have been based on his sequel to the book he wrote with John Heilemann: Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime.
Soon thereafter, Penguin Press announced it had scrubbed plans to publish the book. And Showtime said it is “reevaluating” its relationship with Halperin, who co-hosted its The Circus political docu-drama series with Heilemann.
ABC News chief James Goldston, meanwhile, issued a statement to staff:
“We hold everyone at ABC News accountable for our behavior and how they we conduct ourselves…We know we do our best work in an environment where people feel respected, safe and supported. Harassment or retaliation of any kind is never acceptable.” When CNN was working on its initial report about allegations against Halperin, ABC News had issued a statement saying no complaints against him had been filed with HR during his tenure.
But, Wednesday night, Halperin said in a statement:
“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.”
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