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Journalist Mark Halperin Joins List Of Men Accused Of Sexual Harassment

Oct 27, 2017
Originally published on October 27, 2017 9:08 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The revelations about film producer Harvey Weinstein and his sexual misconduct appear to have changed something important in this country. The victims of sexual abuse and sexual harassment are speaking out in a way they have never spoken out before. Some of the latest high-profile accusations are against political journalist Mark Halperin. Over the last 24 hours since the allegations surfaced, Halperin lost a TV news gig and deals for an upcoming book and movie. Along with all that, Halperin has lost the respect of many of his peers. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik joins us now from New York.

Hi, David.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: What specifically are the allegations against Mark Halperin?

FOLKENFLIK: They date back to his time at ABC News, which he left a decade ago. He was the political director there - very influential in guiding coverage, helping determine assignments, was a close adviser to the late Peter Jennings who was anchor there. And the allegations involve him essentially - as depicted sort of preying on young women who would get - come to him for career guidance or seek promotion opportunity covering campaigns, that he would ask them for opportunity and that he would essentially try to solicit dinners, relationships, things like that and worse - that he would grab them, press himself against them, attempt in some ways to force himself against them. He has apologized. He said that he behaved appropriately, that he did seek romantic involvement with younger colleagues, that he's taking time away and needs to figure out how to remedy this. But he does deny the more forcible allegations. It's worth reminding ourselves though this is one of the more influential political journalists of our time...

MARTIN: Yeah.

FOLKENFLIK: ...That he really shaped our understanding of things like the 2008 election and Hillary Clinton. A lot of women journalists I've talked to say that they look at that in an even harsher light now because of his deep skepticism towards her and that he was awfully dismissive of certain kinds of allegations of sexual impropriety, of sexual assault alleged against then candidate, now president Donald Trump. And they look at that even more skeptically than they did then.

MARTIN: So as you note, these allegations against Halperin are, you know, a decade old or more. So something has changed. It's hard to see how this is not a direct outgrowth of the Weinstein scandal in some way, right?

FOLKENFLIK: This is a story that has taken on a much different cast and a much different immanence. I don't know if it would have been written had it not been for Harvey Weinstein. But let's not forget the litany that led to Harvey Weinstein. You know, we got to go back a little bit to 2014 and say the table-setter was really Bill Cosby here. And then the big one was, you know, Roger Ailes in the July of 2016. And then Bill O'Reilly earlier this year. These are like sequoias falling in the forest. You know, they're epochal moments. And I think the accretion of them led to Harvey Weinstein and also the enormity of not only the allegations against him but the number of women. You know, we've seen stories about a relatively lesser-known Hollywood screenwriter and director against whom there are now 300 women alleging essentially kinds of sexual harassment and abuse to The Los Angeles Times. This is a very different moment.

MARTIN: Are we seeing a shift in how the media handles these stories?

FOLKENFLIK: Yeah. I think news organizations are much less likely to say this doesn't meet our standards or this person isn't newsworthy enough. I think you're seeing a cultural shift both in how newsrooms handle these complaints and how they cover them. There's this online spreadsheet of men essentially in media. It's not comprehensive. It's unverified, anonymous. And it's not clear how much credit to give to them. But nonetheless, a number of men have appeared on them. And a number of news organizations including, for example, Vox Media have taken action against some of them after commencing reviews. They're starting to take what used to be thought of as a whisper network more seriously, both as a source of news and a source of concern internally as employers. The one thing to say is, I don't think this issue was limited to media. It's just started.

MARTIN: Right. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. Thanks, David.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.