News

Every Response So Far From People Who Participated in Mark Halperin’s New Book

Halperin, right, at CPAC in 2015 with Carly Fiorina and Phil Mattingly. Photograph by Ewa Beaujon.

Why would anyone help rehabilitate Mark Halperin’s career? That was a question lots of people asked after Politico reported Sunday that the disgraced pundit has interviewed more than 75 “top Democratic strategists” for a new book about how to beat President Trump. Some of the people Politico reported spoke to him have commented on why they spoke with a man whom multiple women have accused of sexual harassment.

HBO, NBC MSNBC, Showtime, and Penguin Random House distanced themselves from Halperin after news broke of the accusations in 2017. He wrote that year that he “took responsibility for my outrageous conduct at ABC News” and earlier in 2019 apologized to “the women that I mistreated, who told their stories, and who were hurt by me.” His accusers have so far been cool, to put it mildly, to his plans for a comeback.

So far, ten of the 21 people Politico named in its report have commented on why they spoke to Halperin. The Daily Beast reports that Eleanor McManus, one of the many women who accused Halperin of sexual harassment, called his book deal with Regan Arts “a slap in the face to all the women that he has victimized.” Washingtonian has tried to get comment everyone who hasn’t spoken publicly about their participation and will update this story when/if we hear back. If you’re one of these people and didn’t see our request, or you’re a reporter who’s gotten a comment I missed, please email me.

Here’s what everyone has said so far:

Mark Mellman: The political consultant points Washingtonian to tweets in reply to Gretchen Carlson. Among Mellman’s messages to Carlson: “In answering Halperin’s factual questions about 1992 I didn’t intend to suggest I condone his assaults or other hideous behavior, or that I wish to see him empowered. It’s clear, though, that answering his inquiry did further harm to those already hurt. For that I’m truly sorry.”

Jill Alper: The longtime Democratic strategist tells Washingtonian: “When I took M. Halperin’s phone call, I was only focused on the discussion of how Democrats can beat Donald Trump in 2020. In no way did I intend to excuse his egregious behavior, nor did I intend to adversely impact anyone through my participation. In hindsight and knowing more, I truly regret doing so.”

Jeff Link: A top Democratic strategist in Iowa, Link tells the blog Bleeding Heartland, in part: “There’s nothing I can say that will bring any comfort to the women Mark Halperin assaulted. I should have been more mindful when I responded to an email he sent me several months ago asking for my take on the 2020 race, plain and simple. … Going ahead, I can only pledge that I will not make the same mistake again.”

Karen Dunn: The former Hillary Clinton adviser tells Washingtonian: “My intention was certainly never to help rehabilitate Mark Halperin’s career when I responded with an email to his repeated requests for an interview. I continue to view his conduct as inexcusable and condemn it.”

Kathleen Sebelius: The former governor of Kansas and secretary of Health and Human Services shared this statement with Washingtonian: “I knew that Mark Halperin was a well-known author and political journalist but unfortunately was not as aware of the details of his disgraceful behavior toward women as I should have been. I regret having answered his questions, especially if they were designed to help a predator make a comeback.”

Mike McCurry: In an email to Washingtonian, the former White House press secretary writes: “I talked to Mark after the allegations and his acknowledgment surfaced. I spoke to Mark for his book because I’ve known him a long time and I teach now at a Methodist seminary so I believe in redemption and grace.  I also believe that beating Donald Trump in 2020 is critically important and Mark’s book seemed aimed at that objective.  If I could contribute positively to that argument, I felt the engagement was worthwhile, whatever acute misgivings I have about his personal behavior.

I understand those who are critical of people who were interviewed by Mark but I would ask that they think about the concept of ‘forgiveness’ … something important to me as someone who teaches that doctrine and tries hard to ‘walk that walk.’”

David Axelrod: The Obama strategist and former White House adviser wrote on Twitter that he answered Halperin’s email “without giving enough thought to how my participation would be used or interpreted” and added, “I did not in any way mean to excuse his past, egregious behavior and, in retrospect, I regret responding at all.”

Don’t Miss Another Big Story—Get Our Weekend Newsletter

Our most popular stories of the week, sent every Saturday.

Or, see all of our newsletters. By signing up, you agree to our terms.

James Carville: The famous strategist told CNN reporter Oliver Darcy: “I know he’s been accused by a lot of people and lost his job. The guy called me and asked me to speak to him on a topic that I obviously care about. And I spoke to him.”

Anita Dunn: The publicist whose firm, SKDKnickerbocker, has done work for the anti-sexual assault group Time’s Up, didn’t reply to Darcy, but a spokesperson for the firm told him, “Anita cares about beating Donald Trump, that is the only reason she participated.”

Jennifer Granholm: The former Michigan governor wrote on Twitter that she “should have done more research” before speaking to Halperin and offered her “sincere apologies.”

Adrienne Elrod: The former Hillary Clinton spokesperson told the Daily Beast Halperin was only one of “a number of people” she’d spoken to about beating Trump but that “if I had to do it again I would have been more thoughtful and respectful to the women who have been affected.”

Amanda Renteria: Hillary Clinton’s former political director wrote on Twitter: “I’m not interested in rehabilitating anyone’s career” and that “to win the fight for women’s equality, we need to tell our own stories and not let anyone – especially people with a history of harassment – speak for us.”

Ben LaBolt: The former Barack Obama spokesperson told the Daily Beast “I treated it as a normal reporter call but I should have revisited the accusations against him before taking the call.”

Donna Brazile: The former DNC chair told Darcy “I’m not the author. Ask Mark why he chose us.” She later told the Daily Beast, “Many of my friends today are disappointed that I answered Mark’s call, but I did so after he understood where I was coming from.”

Disclosure: I was at one point under contract to write a book for Regan Arts, but the project ended up with another publisher. 

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.