Mark Halperin Enlists Rob Porter’s Ex-Wife for Rehab Interview, Angering His Victims

Maxwell Tani, Lachlan Cartwright

Disgraced journalist Mark Halperin sat down with a high-profile victim of domestic abuse for an uncomfortable interview about his own past misconduct, infuriating many of the women who have accused him of workplace sexual harassment.

On Tuesday, the former NBC News political pundit published to his YouTube page a sitdown interview conducted by Jennie Willoughby, who last year accused her ex-husband Rob Porter, a former Trump White House aide, of domestic abuse.

During their chat, Halperin reiterated his apology to his former colleagues and subordinates who accused him in 2017 of groping and unwanted sexual advances during his tenure at ABC News more than a decade ago. He seemed to acknowledge the odd timing of this latest video, given the recent announcement of his new book, How to Beat Trump, and how it further shocked and dismayed his accusers.

“I’m going to be a little bit in the public eye and I know the announcement of the book was really troubling and painful for the women that I victimized,” he confessed. “And I’m so sorry for that. I really know that one of my highest obligations for the rest of my life is to not do anything to cause them more pain. And I hope, even with the release of the book going forward, that I can do everything possible to minimize anything that I might do that might make them more uncomfortable.”

Halperin once again attempted to distance himself from his past misbehavior, emphasizing that all of the alleged incidents occurred over a decade ago, during his time at ABC News, and that he has since worked to improve his perspective by speaking with religious leaders, therapists, and victims of sexual misconduct.

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“In the ten years after I left ABC, while I was still working as a journalist, I did change my behavior, I was a better colleague, I was someone who understood the proper way to behave in the workplace,” he said.

Halperin added: “I can’t just say I’m going to move on. I have to address it every day in every way I can.”

The 17-minute sitdown—which represented Halperin’s most in-depth discussion thus far on the subject that ended his career—was just the latest attempt at a redemption and apology tour in the lead-up to his new book.

Since coming out of hiding early this year, he’s repeatedly issued apologies in articles covering his return to the spotlight and during multiple appearances on CNN host Michael Smerconish’s SiriusXM radio show. 

During Tuesday’s interview, Halperin also repeated a claim that he has tried to reach out and apologize to many of his victims through intermediaries—but many still refuse to hear him out. 

But for some of Halperin’s accusers, the new video only sparked more outrage.

Former reporter Emily Miller, who accused Halperin of sexual assault, told The Daily Beast she does not accept his latest attempt at an apology: “He's always denied everything I’ve said he did to me so how can he apologize?”

“He has told multiple people I’m lying,” she continued. “He’s never tried in any way to contact me to apologize. If he wants to apologize, name names and say he’s sorry to us."

“As Mark says in the interview, he has made offers directly and through intermediaries in the past to apologize to and meet with the women he victimized,” a source close to Halperin told The Daily Beast. “As he also said, he reiterates that offer publicly now. If any of the women, including Emily Miller, are willing to hear from him, he is eager to make that happen.”

Miller also called it “sick” for Willoughby to have conducted the interview with Halperin. The domestic-abuse survivor has, in recent months, publicly explored the idea of whether men accused of misconduct could have a role in public life again. In a Washington Post op-ed earlier this year, she pondered whether her ex-husband should be allowed to return to the public eye, asking, “Is there a place for a person in public service after being involved in scandal and abuse?”

In an email to The Daily Beast, Willoughby said Halperin reached out to her in March after she wrote about Porter’s attempt at redemption, saying the political pundit “sought counsel on what more he needed to learn from his experience and suggestions on how he might be able to make amends.” She said she suggested participating in an interview where viewers could “feel his remorse and contrition the way I did,” and Halperin ultimately agreed and asked her to conduct it.

“Unfortunately, I don't think the format was able to demonstrate his sincerity in the same unrehearsed and authentic way I have had the opportunity to experience him one-on-one,” she said. “But having spoken with him several times on each of the topics addressed in the interview, I do find his answers genuine.”

Trial attorney and victims’ rights advocate Ari Wilkenfeld, who recently met with Halperin on behalf of several accusers, said he was not pleased with the interview video, which he described as a “video presentation.”

“The thing that was troubling about his video presentation was his use of quote three A’s (apologize with specificity, affirm and acknowledge the harm, advocate),” he said. “I was troubled that he co-opted the three A’s and in the same video presentation demonstrated that he doesn’t understand them or is unable to do the hard work. The most important example of that is there’s a reason #1 is to apologize with specificity.”

Another Halperin accuser, who has previously spoken on-record but requested to speak anonymously here, reacted to Tuesday’s video, by asking: “Why is this coming back? It seems like we were really moving forward in a positive direction and then all of a sudden this book is [coming] out and he’s trending on Twitter and I’m like ‘This guy, he’s back again.’”

Other Halperin accusers, meanwhile, expressed cautious optimism about the new video.  

“While I haven’t communicated with Mark, I was encouraged to see him begin to make an effort to start acknowledging his actions and their consequences,” Eleanor McManus, co-founder of Trident DMG, who previously came forward with her own story about Halperin, told The Daily Beast. “But he’s had two years to do this. I sincerely hope this isn’t a cynical attempt to repair his reputation on the eve of his book release. Only time and his actions will tell.”

In recent months, Halperin has repeatedly attempted to jumpstart his punditry career, but has been met with limited success.

He called top editors at publications including The Hill, clashed behind-the-scenes with MSNBC chief Phil Griffin, and saw an effort to collaborate with some of his fellow former Morning Joe colleagues derailed.

Indeed, in Tuesday’s interview, Halperin seemed to concede that he may never truly work in the business again.

“I don’t know whether I’ll be a journalist or not,” he lamented. “To be a journalist you have to demonstrate integrity, people have to trust you. I know that because of what I did at ABC, I squandered that. And in the eyes of some people, I should never be a journalist again.”

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