Disgraced pundit’s new book deal stirs #MeToo outrage

Mark Halperin was accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and physical assault.

By Tim Elfrink / The Washington Post

Less than two years ago, after multiple women accused Mark Halperin of sexual harassment and physical assault, the political commentator lost his TV gigs and an HBO project based on “Game Change,” his best-selling book on the 2008 election. Now, Politico reported, he has a deal for a new book on the 2020 race featuring interviews with dozens of Democratic strategists.

On Sunday, critics slammed Halperin and the publisher, Regan Arts, suggesting that the pundit hasn’t done enough to atone, leaving several of his prominent sources expressing regret that they’d cooperated for the project.

“Until Mark demonstrates any understanding of how destructive his behaviors were to so many, he doesn’t deserve another platform,” Dianna Goldberg May, who has accused Halperin of repeatedly harassing her as a researcher at ABC News in 1994, told The Washington Post. “Those promoting this book, profiting from it and supporting Mark by speaking with him are on the wrong side of history.”

Halperin, who has denied any unwanted physical contact but apologized for “behavior” that was “inappropriate and caused others pain,” didn’t immediately return a message about the book, called “How to Beat Trump: America’s Top Political Strategists on What it Will Take” and due out in November. His publisher, Judith Regan, cast the project as a second chance and called it an “important, thoughtful book.”

“I do not in any way, shape, or form condone any harm done by one human being to another. I have also lived long enough to believe in the power of forgiveness, second chances, and offering a human being a path to redemption,” the head of Regan Arts told Politico.

Halperin, 54, was one of the biggest names in journalism to fall during a spate of #MeToo accusations that also abruptly ended the careers of Bill O’Reilly, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer and others, but he’s also been among the first to seriously attempt a comeback, with satellite radio appearances and a recently launched blog on current events.

NBC, MSNBC and Showtime all dropped Halperin over the accusations, and HBO canned a planned miniseries adapted from “Game Change” and based on the 2016 election. Like O’Reilly and Lauer, Halperin laid low after the #MeToo claims. But that has changed this year, as The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi reported, with Halperin returning to Twitter, penning a blog and appearing on CNN contributor Michael Smerconish’s SiriusXM radio show.

The would-be comeback has come amid an outcry from his accusers, who questioned why any organization would return him to a position of power and influence. Those concerns were amplified Sunday with news of his book deal.

Eleanor McManus, who came forward in 2017 with allegations of harassment by Halperin, told the Daily Beast that he has yet to truly apologize.

“He leveraged his position as a prominent journalist to prey on women. He has yet to take responsibility for his actions by apologizing to his victims or demonstrating genuine contrition,” McManus said in a statement. “Giving him a book once again puts him in a position of authority and that is a slap in the face to all the women that he has victimized.”

Halperin’s new book boasts interviews with more than 75 Democratic operatives, Politico reported, including former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod, strategist and Fox News contributor Donna Brazile, and Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services secretary under Obama. Critics and #MeToo activists demanded answers from many of the sources for why they agreed to work on the project.

Axelrod noted that he’d known Halperin for 25 years and answered three questions by email “without giving enough thought to how my participation would be used or interpreted.”

“By answering Halperin’s questions, I did not in any way mean to excuse his past, egregious behavior and, in retrospect, I regret responding at all,” he wrote on Twitter.

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, D, apologized and said she hadn’t read deeply enough into the project before responding.

“Spoke with him by phone once about how to defeat Trump in the Midwest,” she tweeted. “Did not mean to hurt anyone, ever; should have done more research. My sincere apologies.”

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