A day after being criticized for her reaction to political journalist and NBC News contributor Mark Halperin’s alleged sexual harassment of female colleagues, “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski issued a lengthy statement about the embattled journalist who was a fixture on her show.
“Before we go to break, something I need say,” said Brzezinski on Friday morning’s broadcast. “Over the past 24 hours, there have been more disturbing reports of Mark Halperin’s treatments of younger, female co-workers. Behavior in these reports allegedly occurred one to two decades ago, and now we’re looking at it, we’re talking about it. Mark and Karen have been a part of ‘Morning Joe’s’ extended family for years. They’re our friends; we believe it’s important to stand with our friends for even the most difficult of times, but it’s even more important to demand the truth, even when the facts appear to be extremely painful.
“Yesterday morning, we woke up to reports of unnamed sources telling CNN that Mark made unwanted sexual advances and overtures toward them,” continued Brzezinski. “A day later, more revelations pointing to a possible pattern of unacceptable conduct. I’ve spoken to and heard from some of these women. I feel their pain and understand the difficult position they were in, because I have been through enough in this business to know what I hear. We are at a pivotal moment in history where unacceptable harassing behavior towards women will no longer be swept under the rug.”
Thursday morning Brzezinski issued a short statement mentioning that the allegations had occurred “decades ago” and that CNN’s story was filled with “unnamed sources.” CNN’s story also contained a Halperin statement in which he admitted to pursuing relationships with women junior to him and saying, “I now understand from these accounts that my behavior was inappropriate and caused others pain.” Brzezinski was criticized for what many felt was dismissing the accusations, which became more numerous as the day continued.
According to the CNN story, Halperin allegedly pursued those relationships via groping, kissing and pressing himself against women without their consent. More accusers came forward over the course of Thursday, including conservative pundit Emily Miller, who was confronted aggressively by Halperin during a ‘Morning Joe’ appearance, a segment she attributed to as backlash for her declining his advances. A Washington Post story published Thursday alleged that Halperin had insisted a researcher sit on his lap, while a Daily Beast article alleged he had attempted to force himself onto a female colleague in an empty office. Halperin told the Post that he denied some of the allegations against him.
NBC suspended Halperin as a contributor Thursday.
“Yes, we do remain a nation of laws where everyone is considered innocent until proven guilty, and nothing has been proven or adjudicated here,” Brzezinski said Friday, “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.”
She continued: “I’ll speak for both Joe and myself here: Our hearts break for 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. We’re not going to avoid the story just because he is our friend. We will cover it and we’re going to pray for everybody involved.”
In the wake of the allegations, Halperin lost both the book deal and an HBO deal for his account of the 2016 election. “Game Change,” the bestselling book written with John Heileman covering the 2008 campaign, was turned into a popular television movie by HBO. During the 2016 campaign, Halperin had said there was “nothing illegal” about allegations that then candidate Donald Trump had sexually harassed women, adding he should “celebrate this story, politically.”
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