Mark Halperin Attempts A Comeback After #MeToo Allegations

Mark Halperin, the former MSNBC political analyst who was accused of misconduct during the height of the #MeToo Movement, is trying to make a comeback with a new book.

“#metoo” by Duncan C is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Former political pundit Mark Halperin, who largely disappeared after being the subject of numerous claims of sexual harassment, has written a new book about the 2020 election and at least some of his accusers aren’t very pleased about it:

Reports of a new book deal for the political journalist Mark Halperin set off a firestorm this weekend, as critics said that Democratic strategists should not have granted interviews to him.

Mr. Halperin, the co-author of the best-selling chronicle of the 2008 presidential campaign “Game Change,” lost a cable-news role and a book deal after a report that multiple women had accused him of making unwanted and aggressive sexual advances. The backlash to his new book deal reflected continued anger about misconduct claims in the #MeToo era.

The coming book by Mr. Halperin, “How To Beat Trump: America’s Top Political Strategists on What It Will Take,” is to be published by Regan Arts, a division of the publisher Phaidon led by the longtime editor and publishing executive Judith Regan. Ms. Regan confirmed the plan to publish the book in an email on Monday.

Some of the strategists who spoke to Mr. Halperin for the book — notably David Axelrod, a former adviser to President Barack Obama — expressed regret after many social media users criticized the author’s return to public life.

“By answering Halperin’s questions, I did not in any way mean to excuse his past, egregious behavior,” Mr. Axelrod said in a Twitter post on Sunday.

Donna Brazile, Al Gore’s campaign manager in 2000, condemned his purported conduct in a statement to The Daily Beast but defended having shared her insights for the planned book.

Other political strategists, including James Carville, said that their participation in the book came out of a desire to defeat President Trump, rather than an endorsement of Mr. Halperin.

Nearly two years ago, Halperin, who became famous both from his regular appearances on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and from the books Game Change and Double Down: Game Change 2012,” which he co-wrote with John Heilman, became wrapped up in the ongoing #MeToo revelations thanks to a detailed report on CNN that catalogued a number of instances of improper conduct toward women. While none of these instances have resulted in the filing of criminal charges, the impact on Halperin’s career was predictable. He quickly disappeared from the air on MSNBC and has not returned in the intervening two years, his book deals, including an apparent deal for a book about the 2016 election, were revoked, and he basically disappeared from public view.

That media blackout was quietly lifted earlier this year when he appeared on Michael Smerconish’s show on SiriusXM at the same time that reports dropped that there was an ongoing, albeit quiet, effort to rehabilitate his image to the point where he could resume a career at some point in the future. Interestingly, that report didn’t make any mention of the upcoming book even though it was clearly already in development at the time, if not nearly completed.

Halperin’s effort to rehabilitate himself have raised the question of how we should handle the issue of people who were accused as part of the MeToo era should be treated when they inevitably try to reclaim their careers. I wrote about this back in January and noted that the question isn’t completely up to us:

On some level, of course, the question of forgiveness doesn’t belong to society as a whole, but to the individual women, and in some cases men, who have been victimized by those in a position of power or fame in the past. If they aren’t prepared to forgive, then it seems presumptuous and wrong for the rest of us to speak for the victim(s) or to “forgive” the perpetrators of sexual harassment or assault before the victim is prepared to do so. Even in cases where the victims have forgiven the perpetrators, though, Cowen is correct that there doesn’t seem to be any kind of a consistent guide or standard for when it’s okay to forgive the (mostly) men who have engaged in behavior that is now deemed to be socially unacceptable. As Cowen notes, there are some people such as Louis C.K. who seem to be bouncing back from the charges against them. Others seem unlikely to ever be forgiven.

Some of these cases are obviously different from others, of course. Men like Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and Kevin Spacey who have either been charged or convicted of serious sexual assault offenses should obviously be treated differently from men like Matt Lauer, Les Moonves, Al Franken and others, who have been accused of sexual harassment which, while clearly inappropriate, doesn’t rise to the level of criminal behavior. What are the standards for when they can or should be forgiven, and should they be given a second chance? Denying forgiveness altogether doesn’t seem to me to be the appropriate response. After all, the men in this second group did not commit crimes and, in many cases, the women who accused them of inappropriate behavior have received at least some form of compensation for the wrongs that were done to them. At what point does the social shunning come to an acceptable end, and who gets to decide what the standards are?

In the end, it will be the market that decides whether Halperin has paid a sufficient price for the accusations against him. As Jazz Shaw notes at Hot Air, the first test will be whether or not he begins to return to his old haunts on cable news:

Unless the blowback from this announcement results in the publisher canceling the deal, however, the die seems to have been cast. So what happens then? Two immediate groups of people will be under a lot of scrutiny.

The first will be the networks and morning show hosts who usually line up dutifully and offer free publicity in the form of interviews whenever a member of their own tribe puts out a new book. MSNBC, CNN, NBC News and all the rest would, in earlier times, have all given generous appearances to Halperin to drive his book sales. Will Morning Joe, Jake Tapper or Chuck Todd be allowing Mark to darken their doorways? If so, the reactions should be… interesting.

Ordinarily, of course, a book like this would be accompanied by a book tour that would take him to many of the outlets that Jazz notes in his comments. This would seem to be especially true given the fact that the race for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination is one of the primary focuses of political news on the cable networks. A book like the one he has apparently written would ordinarily be one that hosts and producers would be eager to give air time too. Will that happen in this case, and will any interviews we do see include discussion of the 2017 allegations? Only time will tell.

As it stands, though, it seems clear to me that Halperin has a right to try to resurrect his career. The criticism that is being directed at him and at those who agreed to be interviewed for the book strikes me as a ridiculous overreaction. Halperin was in the wrong, but he didn’t commit and wasn’t accused of any crime. If the public and the media accept his return, then it seems to me the question is answered.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Media, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Teve says:

    While none of these instances amounted to sexual assault,

    I’m not a lawyer so I’m probably missing a term of art here but I’d consider groping women against their will to be sexual assault.

  2. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Teve:

    I’m not a lawyer so I’m probably missing a term of art here but I’d consider groping women against their will to be sexual assault.

    If you were a lawyer you would say:” I’d consider an allegation of groping women against their will to be an allegation of sexual assault.

    BTW, my wife alleges that I’m a financial genius.

  3. @Teve:

    You have a point so I updated the post to say that none of the charges resulted in the filing of criminal charges against Halperin.

  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    This seems like an issue for the market to solve. If people want the book and don’t care about the allegations then it will sell.
    Having said that…two things;
    One…the women probably have experienced permanent damage to their careers, so there is no justice to be found here.
    Two…I’m disappointed in the operatives who helped Halperin with this project.

    the first test will be whether or not he begins to return to his old haunts on cable news:

    I guarantee that he will be a regular on the Morning Joe show starting in, 3, 2, 1….

  5. @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I don’t know about Morning Joe. Mika has some strong opinions on MeToo and I doubt Joe is gonna want to upset the Mrs.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    Kirsten Gillibrand:

    “It’s not for me to judge,” Gillibrand said of Halperin’s return to the public eye, echoing language she used with regard to Franken. “It’s a choice that any individual can make and they just make it. It starts with humility and a recognition that you acknowledge that you’ve done something wrong.”

    Now the prosecutor-in-chief of Al Franken is starting to walk back. Her eagerness to destroy Al Franken crippled her presidential ambitions and now, too late, she’s softening her zeal.

    I am a big supporter of #MeToo. I was molested, my wife was attacked and pistol-whipped pursuant to an attempted rape within my hearing. It is precisely because I take this seriously that I objected from the start to the astoundingly stupid notion of ‘believe all women.’ What progress has been made has come despite ‘believe all women.’ It was obvious (or at least I thought so) that pursuing this just cause by unjust means would end up harming the cause. And that’s what’s happened.

    Humans (other primates as well, actually) have an innate sense of justice. When all accused are assumed to be guilty, people rebel instinctively. When all offenses, from the relatively trivial up to the Cosby-Weinstein level are treated the same, and the same punishments applied, people rebel instinctively. Unjust means do not yield just results.

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  7. gVOR08 says:

    One factor should be the value of their return. By that standard Al Franken should be be welcomed back soon and Mark Halperin never.

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  8. @michael reynolds:

    Gillibrand is being awfully generous toward Franken these days. Some have alleged that she went after him as hard as she did because she saw it as a way to take out a potential rival for the nomination. What surprised me was how many other people piled on so quickly after she demanded he resign. One theory at the time was that Democrats feared it would undercut the case they were making against Roy Moore at the time, but in retrospect I think that’s kind of a bogus argument given that Moore was accused of sexually assaulting minors, which is orders of magnitude worse than anything Franken was accused of.

  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    It’s one thing when MeToo is an abstract thing…another when it damages one of your friends…
    https://www.thedailybeast.com/mark-halperin-enlists-pals-joe-scarborough-mika-brzezinski-and-michael-smerconish-to-rehab-his-career

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Meh. If he was as pure and innocent as a new born babe I wouldn’t be buying his book anyway. He’s never had much to say that I wanted to hear.

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  11. Hal_10000 says:

    Ok, MeToo, etc., I agree with all that but …

    How To Beat Trump: America’s Top Political Strategists on What It Will Take

    Are you kidding me? This is his comeback? A book where a bunch of political insiders double down on how badly badly wrong they were in 2016? A bunch of morons who couldn’t stop the Trump thing the first time are you going to tell us, “Oh, no, we really know how to do it now!” For Goodness sake, if you’re going to try to rehabilitate a sleaze like Halperin, could at least be fore something worthwhile and not Inside the Beltway politicos blanking each other off about how to persuade us plebs to vote against Trump?

    Criminy. Thousands of great authors out there struggling to rub pennies together and they’re giving money to Halperin for this swill.

  12. 95 South says:

    @gVOR08:

    One factor should be the value of their return.

    You can do whatever you want, as long as you’re good for the cause.

  13. Kylopod says:

    @Hal_10000: David Plouffe has just released a book titled A Citizen’s Guide to Beating Donald Trump. The title alone instantly turned me off, because it was so presumptuous, making it sound like Plouffe knows how to take down Trump, rather than simply having ideas to offer.

    Yet I respect Plouffe more than Halperin because he at least has the experience to back his claims up, having been directly part of the last successful Democratic campaign for president. And he issued a pretty strong mea culpa after the 2016 election: “never been as wrong on anything in my life.” I don’t recall Halperin making a similarly self-effacing statement about anything. What I do recall is his reaction to the Access Hollywood story when it broke, which looks bad for more reasons than simply being an abominably stupid assessment of its political impact:

    “There’s some troubling things in the piece, but there’s nothing illegal, there’s nothing even kind of like beyond boorish or politically incorrect, which is built into the Donald Trump brand,” Halperin said at the time. “So, if that’s the best they have in this score, Donald Trump can celebrate this story politically.”

  14. EddieInCA says:

    @Kylopod:

    I’m frankly stunned, but only slightly, if one can even be “slightly stunned”. I listened to Michael Smerconish yesterday yammer on about how Halperin has “paid his dues” and how much “he respects his political knowledge and insight”. Made me want to retch, and it made me lose a bit of respect for Smerconish, who I think is misguided often by his “bothsiderism”, but who I also think is an honest broker.

    Halperin is a tool. Like Bill Kristol, he’s wrong much more often than he’s right. On top of that, he’s a freaking douchebag.

    Another perfect example of privilege and belonging to the “club” in DC.

    Sad!

  15. Gustopher says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    What surprised me was how many other people piled on so quickly after she demanded he resign. One theory at the time was that Democrats feared it would undercut the case they were making against Roy Moore at the time,

    One of the last known accusers (7th, I think) was a congressional staffer. I suspect that made the accusations hit home, and caused a lot of Senators to want him gone.

    Keep in mind that we do not have all the details of many of the complaints, because Franken didn’t wait for the ethics review. Did everyone gang up on him for something trivial, or was there an acknowledgment that no one wanted to deal with more serious allegations, or just more accusations?

    Franken chose to resign. No one forced him out. He’s a smart man, who holds to his convictions — do we really believe that he was suddenly weak, and caved because of Gillibrand?

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:

    Franken chose to resign. No one forced him out. He’s a smart man, who holds to his convictions — do we really believe that he was suddenly weak, and caved because of Gillibrand?

    No, far smarter to assume he was a monster and that Gillibrand was entirely justified. It’s hard to organize a good mob without insinuating the worst in the absence of evidence.

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  17. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds:

    No, far smarter to assume he was a monster and that Gillibrand was entirely justified.

    She spoke her mind. How is that not justified?

    She was then followed by most of the Democratic Senators on the same day, most within hours, some within minutes.

    I see the focus on Gillibrand as misogynists in the Democratic Party (and outside), who want to punish a woman for daring to be uppity. Women who complain about sexual harassment get destroyed. And she was the closest people could get to the accusers.

    I don’t include you among them, as you have your own high horse, but I think your views on Gillibrand are colored by the misogynist Franken Stans who make common cause with you.

  18. EddieInCA says:

    @Gustopher:

    Gillibrand’s comments had no nuance and no context. As a political matter, it was brutally and efficiently effective. As a moral matter, I believe she was 100% wrong, given the context and the times we were in. She saw a chance to be politically ruthless and she took it. Kudos to her for that. But to think that there isn’t now, and shouldn’t be, any blowback from her crappy behavior, is naïve at best. I understood why she did it even though I don’t agree with it. And I will hammer her for it until the end of time. She does not get a do over.

  19. grumpy realist says:

    Women should start bringing back the Renaissance habit of carrying around stilettos. Or Victorian women with hatpins. And using them whenever they run into someone like Halperin.

    There’s a reason my hairstyle includes sharp pointy things in it.

  20. An Interested Party says:

    “By answering Halperin’s questions, I did not in any way mean to excuse his past, egregious behavior,” Mr. Axelrod said in a Twitter post on Sunday.

    Donna Brazile, Al Gore’s campaign manager in 2000, condemned his purported conduct in a statement to The Daily Beast but defended having shared her insights for the planned book.

    Other political strategists, including James Carville, said that their participation in the book came out of a desire to defeat President Trump, rather than an endorsement of Mr. Halperin.

    One could have more respect for these people if they simply used a defense similar to what Doug wrote in his last paragraph of this post, but this tripe? Mealy-mouthed hypocrites…

  21. Mister Bluster says:

    You can do whatever you want, as long as you’re good for the cause.

    “You can do anything…grab them by the pussy!”