Less than 12 hours after sexual harassment allegations surfaced against Mark Halperin, the veteran political journalist has been put on leave by MSNBC, where he had been serving as a contributor. In a statement released Thursday morning, the news network said it finds the allegations first reported by CNN "very troubling."
"Mark Halperin is leaving his role as a contributor until the questions around his past conduct are fully understood," the network said.
The claims against the journalist stem from his tenure as political director at ABC News, where he had crafted an influential daily newsletter known as The Note. Five women told CNN anonymously that during Halperin's time in his lofty perch at ABC, he repeatedly engaged in sexually inappropriate conduct. The alleged behavior ranged from propositioning some of the women for sex to touching their breasts and pressing his genitals up against them while clothed.
Halperin denied the allegations of inappropriate touching, but he did apologize for other conduct.
"During this period, I did pursue relationships with women that I worked with, including some junior to me," he said in a statement to CNN on Wednesday night. "I now understand from these accounts that my behavior was inappropriate and caused others pain. For that, I am deeply sorry and I apologize. Under the circumstances, I'm going to take a step back from my day-to-day work while I properly deal with this situation."
The allegations come at a tumultuous time in the film and television industry. A slew of sexual harassment and assault accusations against Hollywood mega-producer Harvey Weinstein went public earlier this month, quickly leading to his ouster and even police investigations opened in several major cities. But Weinstein has not been the only man in media whose conduct has come under renewed scrutiny lately: Director James Toback, Amazon Studios chief Roy Price and several others have drawn similar claims in recent weeks.
As NPR's David Folkenflik reports, ABC News says no complaints were filed when Halperin was working at the network, which drew to a close in 2007.
In the years that followed, Halperin worked for Time magazine and later Bloomberg — during which span he also co-wrote the best-selling books Game Change and Double Down: Game Change 2012 with John Heilemann. As a contributor to MSNBC, Halperin made regular appearances on Morning Joe and other news programs.