The co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program apologized for calling out the survivors of Mark Halperin’s sexual assaults for their unwillingness to interact with him face-to-face late Friday after her comments on-air that morning sparked a harsh response from 10 of her friend’s targets.
“In our discussion about sexual harassment this morning, I said some things that hurt people,” said Mika Brezinski, who started on the program as the news reader, when the show debuted in 2007, but eventually became the show’s co-host with former Florida congressman C. Joseph “Joe” Scarborough.
Halperin was a regular on the program. When women started coming forward in the last days of October about his sexual misconduct, he was easily one of the top political reporters in the country, a spot he had held for the previous decade–having successful stints at Bloomberg, ABC News and bestselling books about the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. His romantic novel, Paris in Past Tense,” was released Oct. 3.
“In the case of Mark, my goal today was to start a conversation about hearing from the men whenever we can, but I realize that it is not my place,” she said.
“It isn’t my call to make, and for that I am truly sorry,” said the daughter of Zbigniew Brezinski, President James E. Carter’s national security advisor. “As a victim of sexual assault, I understand that each individual’s case is different.”
In her commentary in the morning, Brezinski said she was reaching disgusted with Halperin’s victims ignoring her attempts to patch things up:
Some men who are willing to face the music, who are willing to face the facts, who are willing to admit to their actions 10, 20 years ago, even five years ago. Mark Halperin is more than willing to meet with his accusers and apologize with them face-to-face. I’ve actually tried to offer him to them. They don’t want to talk to him. They don’t want to talk to him. There are some — there are some hypocrisies here.
The mother of two daughters seemed to realize she had crossed the line when she said: “I know I said something incredibly, what’s the word? Explosive.”
Her husband did not seem to think it was a problem, when she suggested her words were explosive, Scarborough offered instead: “Truthful? Truthful.”
Sensing that her husband was giving her cover she also weighed in on the groping scandal that will soon send Sen. Alan S. Franken (D.-Minn.) back to private life. “I’m not sure what we’re doing here, I really don’t know–and what happened with Al Franken? Doesn’t feel right. It feels political.”
Before NBC released Brezinski’s apology, 10 victims of Halperin including Dianna Pierce Burgess, Katie Glenn, Dianna May, Ella Spektor McManus, Emily Miller and Lara Setrakian rebuked the Williams College graduate and former Hartford, Connecticut TV reporter:
“As journalists and as victims of sexual assault we vehemently disagree with Mika Brzezinski’s inappropriate comments on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” today.
Ms. Brzezinski suggested that women who were assaulted by Mark Halperin owe him an opportunity to meet with him in person so that he can ‘apologize face-to-face.’ Sexual harassment and assault is illegal in the workplace and represents a violation of the policies and standards of NBC News. It is an unethical and harmful request to ask that sexual assault victims confront their accusers in person.
Ms. Brzezinski pointed out that Mark Halperin should have a chance to “validate the truth.” If Mr. Halperin feels genuine remorse and wants to apologize, or otherwise try to repair the substantial damage he has done he can do so in the public domain, through the full acknowledgement of his wrongdoing and an honest account of his departure from ABC News.
To unveil Mr. Halperin’s transgressions over three decades required the hard work and professionalism of the same press that holds politicians and world leaders to account. Each one of the cases that have surfaced in the press has been fact-checked and backed up by contemporaneous sources.
We would ask for Ms. Brzezinski for higher standards of editorial judgment, compassion and human decency.
Ms. Brezinski and her cohost, Joe Scarborough, have a long-standing personal friendship with Mark Halperin which appears to be shaping their position on his case.
MSNBC’s air time should not be used as a platform for the one-sided rehabilitation of Mr. Halperin’s reputation or career.
Through his well-documented actions Mr. Halperin has demonstrated that he is unfit for the senior roles he held in our profession and in the public discourse.
We applaud NBC’s decision to terminate its professional relationship with him as a result.”
One of Mark Halperin’s victims, reporter and author Emily Miller, Tweeted:
"It is disgusting and unethical of Mika to use the power of her show to shame me, a sexual assault victim, into meeting with the man who did that to me." More on my first on the record interview on Mark Halperin here: #MeToo https://t.co/OI3ovOWl0l
— Emily Miller (@EmilyMiller) December 23, 2017
In the end, Brezinski said she was going back to her day job: “This is up to the victims, some of whom I’ve been in contact with. My hope is for all of us to come together to support the brave women who speak out and help make workplaces safer as we continue this difficult conversation in the months and years ahead.”