She told people about her abuser for nearly two decades. No one did a thing.
|Paul Farhi 12.26.2017|
She kept repeating her story. She was assaulted by a prominent journalist, she says, and after it happened, she told her friends.
She told the man’s colleagues. She even told her boyfriend, who interacted with the journalist professionally. And she told one of the man’s closest collaborators.
As her career progressed and her professional circle widened, the woman says she told and retold the story about her bizarre and violent encounter with Mark Halperin, the longtime political director for ABC News, cable pundit and best-selling author, whenever his name came up.
Many of those she told were shocked, she said. But no one, to the best of her knowledge, reported it to Halperin’s employers, or police, or confronted Halperin himself.
The story was whispered, without evident effect, for nearly two decades. It was only this fall that Halperin was fired by several employers after news reports describing years of behavior toward several women he acknowledged was “aggressive and crude.”
The woman who accused Halperin said she’s gained some measure of satisfaction from seeing his misconduct exposed. “I’m euphoric that all of this has finally come out about Mark,” she said. “I do feel validated by it.”
But for years, she had to move in the same professional and social circles as him, watching as no one said a thing.
When she was just out of college, the woman sought career advice from Halperin, whom she had met while she was a White House intern and he was political director at ABC News. They had lunch in New York, she said, and as they stood outside the restaurant afterward, Halperin suddenly threw her up against the plate-glass facade and pinned her arms against it.
Then he lunged at her, mouth agape, “like someone who was going to eat you.”
She said she slipped his grip, wriggled free and got away.
Later that day, said the woman — who spoke on the condition of anonymity for this report to protect her family’s privacy — Halperin called. She assumed he would apologize. Instead, “he said, ‘No one will ever hire you. You have no experience. I don’t know what you thought I could do for you.’ ”
As Halperin’s career soared, the inaction among her friends and colleagues made the woman feel “as if I did something wrong, or maybe that I had imagined the whole thing. I wanted to feel validated and heard at the very least.”
Among the people the woman said she told about Halperin was an old boyfriend, Michael Feldman, a prominent political consultant. Even after learning about the incident from her in 2004, Feldman, a former senior adviser to Vice President Al Gore, invited Halperin to join the couple on a dinner date, she said. Appalled that he would propose such an encounter with a man she had described as her abuser, the woman refused to join them for dinner. Her relationship with Feldman ended soon after.
Asked about the woman’s account, Feldman declined to comment.
Another person she said she informed was John Heilemann, Halperin’s collaborator on “Game Change” and other projects. She said she told Heilemann about Halperin in 2007.
Thereafter, Heilemann intensified his professional relationship with Halperin; they went on to earn millions of dollars from their joint book and TV projects.
Since Halperin’s exposure as an alleged serial sexual harasser, Heilemann has denied any knowledge of Halperin’s misconduct. He told the New York Times this fall that he “was flabbergasted and shocked” by the various allegations.
“I had never heard of, been exposed to or had any inkling of the notion that he had engaged in any behavior that could be described in even the broadest sense of being sexual harassment or sexual assault,” Heilemann told the newspaper.
The woman told him in a phone conversation that she was “offended, outraged and hurt” by his comments to the Times.
She recalled the specific circumstances in which she recounted her story to Heilemann: in her office at the publication where they both worked, he standing by a window, she at her desk. “I told him in no uncertain terms,” she said.
In an interview, Heilemann said he doesn’t recall hearing the woman’s story. He declined to be quoted directly and offered no further comment.
‘Should I have gone and punched him in the face?
Two other men — one a former political operative, the other a journalist — said they weren’t sure what to do when they heard her story more than a decade ago. Both men, who spoke at length about the episode on the condition of anonymity, expressed remorse about their indecision and inaction.
“Should I have gone and punched him in the face?” said the former political operative, who said the woman told him around 2003 or 2004. “Should I have called the head of ABC News? I don’t even know how that worked.”
The journalist said he learned of the incident about a year or so after it allegedly occurred. He said he felt guilty about remaining silent. But he reasoned that taking the allegation public at the time might have backfired.
“It would have been horrible,” he said. “No one would have believed her, and no one at ABC News would have taken it seriously at the time. It would have hurt her, not Mark.” He added that “the world is different today than it was even three months ago. It’s different now” because allegations against Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and Weinstein have created a more receptive climate for people to come forward.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center advises those told of assault or harassment to let the accuser guide the response.
“You want to help validate the person’s experience. You want to listen and offer help, but you don’t want to take over,” said Kristen Houser, a spokeswoman for the organization. “You never want to tell a person things they’re not ready to do.”