MSNBC political analyst Mark Halperin losing book deal and TV jobs over sexual harassment claims

The multimedia career of political journalist and author Mark Halperin is on shaky ground after a report that he sexually harassed five women during his tenure at ABC News.

Just hours after the publication of the CNN report late Wednesday, Halperin was pulled from his contributor’s role at MSNBC and NBC News. Penguin Press canceled the publication of his next “Game Change” book about the 2016 presidential campaign, co-authored with John Heilemann. Plans for an HBO miniseries tied to the title were scrapped by the premium cable network, and the next season of the Showtime documentary series “The Circus,” in which Halperin co-stars, appears in doubt.

Five women who worked with Halperin when he was political director of ABC News in the early 2000s told CNN that he propositioned them or touched them inappropriately while on the job. Three women said Halperin pressed up against them while having an erection. None of the women complained to ABC’s human resources department about his behavior. The accusers spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity.

The accusations against Halperin join the growing maelstrom of sexual harassment and assault charges, which have rocked the careers and reputations of former Weinstein Co. co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein, former Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly, screenwriter James Toback, and others. As more women come forward to allege years of bad behavior, the roiling national discussion of workplace harassment shows no signs of abating.

In a statement to CNN, Halperin acknowledged that he mistreated female employees at ABC News and issued an apology.

“During this period, I did pursue relationships with women that I worked with, including some junior to me,” said Halperin, 52. “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.”

By Thursday morning, Halperin, a paid contributor who regularly appears on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and other NBC News programs, was on leave indefinitely.

“We find the story and the allegations very troubling. Mark Halperin is leaving his role as a contributor until the questions around his past conduct are fully understood,” the cable network said in a statement.

The alleged incidents involving Halperin occurred when he was political director at ABC News from 1997 to 2007. An ABC News representative said, “Mark left ABC a decade ago and no complaints were filed during his tenure.”

But some women who worked with Halperin at ABC have commented on social media that there had been talk within the company at the time about his treatment of women.

Clarissa Ward, a senior international correspondent for CNN, tweeted out the Halperin story and said, “This was an open story when I was @ABC for years.”

Former ABC News staffer Emily Miller put a #MeToo hashtag on her tweet of the CNN story and said she too was harassed by Halperin. She then added: “To be clear, I was NOT one of the victims in this story about Mark Halperin. I was ANOTHER junior ABC employee he attacked.”

As of Thursday, there had been no sexual harassment complaints filed against Halperin at NBC, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to comment publicly. As an on-air contributor, Halperin does not have an office or work space in the network’s headquarters or newsroom.

Halperin has a multiyear contract with NBC, but such deals can typically be terminated in the event an on-air talent embarrasses the company.

Showtime Networks issued a statement that there had been no allegations of “untoward behavior” by Halperin during the production of “The Circus.” However, the premium cable network said it will “evaluate its options” on going forward with a second season of the program.

After Halperin left ABC, he became one of the most prominent political journalists in the country, appearing frequently on television and co-writing the best-selling “Game Change” with Heilemann about the 2008 presidential campaign, which was made into a HBO film. In 2016, Halperin and Heilemann co-hosted “With All Due Respect,” which aired on Bloomberg TV and MSNBC.

stephen.battaglio@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio

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UPDATES:

6:15 p.m.: This article was updated with the Penguin Press announcement that the publication of Halperin’s next book has been canceled.

2:15 p.m.: This article was updated to include a response from Showtime.

12:35 p.m.: This article was updated with information on Halperin’s status with NBC News and Showtime.

9:50 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from former ABC News employees describing alleged sexual harassment by Halperin and a comment from ABC News.

This article was originally published at 6:55 a.m.

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