September 25th, 2020


Redemption sounds nice, but disgraced lib pundit doesn't deserve it

Margaret Sullivan

By Margaret Sullivan The Washington Post

Published August 20, 2019

 Redemption sounds nice, but disgraced lib pundit doesn't deserve it
Want to make a comeback?

First make amends.

Mark Halperin, an author and media commentator who stepped down from his various lofty perches in 2017, seems to have missed that step along the path to would-be redemption.

He has a high-profile book deal - but what he doesn't seem to have is a sense of why he shouldn't have one.

And most of his comeback enablers don't seem to get it either. That includes his publisher, Judith Regan, and the prominent Democrats who participated in his book, due out in November, which transmits their advice on how to beat President Donald Trump in 2020.

Let's recall what numerous women claimed Halperin did when he was about as prominent as a media figure as can be; the reported incidents happened while he was at ABC News, where he rose to become political director in 1997.

Here's how CNN reported it: The accusations ranged from "propositioning employees for sex to kissing and grabbing one's breasts against her will." Reporter Oliver Darcy recalled more of his 2017 reporting in the network's media newsletter on Sunday:

"Three women who spoke to me described Halperin as, without consent, pressing an erection against their bodies while he was clothed. One woman told me Halperin masturbated in front of her in his office, while another told me that he violently threw her against a restaurant window before attempting to kiss her, and that when she rebuffed him he called her and told her she would never work in politics or media."

Halperin denied some of the allegations and made a general public apology for inappropriately pursuing relationships and causing pain. He added: "Under the circumstances, I'm going to take a step back from my day-to-day work while I properly deal with this situation."

Properly dealing with the situation seems to have involved relentlessly working his connections to make a comeback.

What he didn't do, according to two of the media-industry women (Eleanor McManus and Emily Miller) who had been brave enough to use their names in making their complaints about his behavior, was to apologize directly.

Miller told me Halperin denied her account of his behavior.

McManus was appalled by the cooperation that Halperin got from the likes of prominent Democrats including James Carville and Donna Brazile.

"I can't believe these people spoke to him," she told Darcy. "The fact that so many people spoke to him sets the whole #MeToo movement back." They are, she said, "enabling him and re-traumatizing the victims."

David Axelrod at least had the grace to say that, on reflection, he regretted participating.

Regan, the publisher, tried to spin it differently.

"I do not in any way, shape, or form condone any harm done by one human being to another," she said in a statement, according to Politico, which first reported the deal. "I have also lived long enough to believe in the power of forgiveness, second chances, and offering a human being a path to redemption."

Regan has been here before. In 2004, she tried to publish a book by O.J. Simpson: "If I Did It," a supposedly hypothetical retelling of the killings, a decade earlier, of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman. The project imploded, and publication was canceled, though some copies leaked out.

Should there be such a thing - as Regan puts it - as forgiveness, second chances and redemption?

Of course. People mess up, sometimes badly. Some do deserve a second chance, and not all situations are of equal weight. There is no one-size-fits-all.

As my colleague Monica Hesse put it in a column about the aftermath of the #MeToo movement: "Our job is to live in the gray now. To wrestle with the society we've produced."

But forgiveness, second chances and redemption should be inconceivable without dealing honestly and publicly - and, in some cases, personally - with misconduct.

And even if that happens, it doesn't mean that the perpetrators should blithely get to return to what they were doing before the fall.

In some cases, a return to previous roles is simply wrong.

To use an extreme example: We shouldn't want predatory Catholic priests back in the pulpit - or in the sacristy with altar boys - in the name of redemption.

We shouldn't want former CBS chief Les Moonves back in the network's fanciest corporate office in the name of second chances.

And we shouldn't want Mark Halperin back in print or on the air in the name of forgiveness.

Especially since he hasn't asked for forgiveness from the very women whose lives and careers he damaged.

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