MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski says that even though her “heart breaks” for her friend Mark Halperin as he stands accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, she supports NBC’s decision to suspend the longtime contributor.
Brzezinski, who co-hosts MSNBC’s political talk show Morning Joe with fiancé Joe Scarborough, said she speaks for both of them in saying: “Our hearts break for Mark and his family because he is our friend. But we fully support NBC’s decision here. We want to know more about these disturbing allegations. We want to hear the stories.”
“We need to know what happened and we’re not going to avoid the story just because he is our friend,” she added. “We’re going to cover it and we’re going to pray for everybody involved.”
A report published by CNN on Wednesday included interviews with five unidentified women who alleged that Halperin, a veteran political journalist and author of the book Game Change about the 2008 presidential election, made unwanted sexual advances toward them. Three of the five women described Halperin pressing his genitals against them, while two claimed he asked them to go up to his hotel room while on the campaign trail. One incident included Halperin allegedly kissing a woman and grabbing her breasts during a meeting in his office.
Halperin has apologized for his “inappropriate” behavior but denied any nonconsensual contact with the women who spoke to CNN.
“During this period, I did pursue relationships with women that I worked with, including some junior to me,” Halperin, 52, said in a statement to CNN 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.”
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NBC announced Thursday that Halperin was stepping away from his current role as a political analyst for MSNBC.
“We find the story and the allegations very troubling,” said the statement from NBC News. “Mark Halperin is leaving his role as a contributor until the questions around his past conduct are fully understood.”
Brzezinski said Halperin and his longtime partner Karen Avrich “have been a part of Morning Joe’s extended family for years.”
“And we believe it’s important to stand with our friends through even the most difficult of times,” she said. “But it’s even more important to demand the truth even when the facts appear to be extremely painful.”
Brzezinski said she’s spoken with some of the women who have accused Halperin of sexual misconduct and she “feels their pain.”
“I understand the difficult position they were in because I’ve been through enough in this business to know what I hear,” she said.
“We are at a pivotal moment in history where unacceptable harassing behavior towards women will no longer be swept under the rug,” Brzezinski continued. “And yes, we do remain a nation of laws where everyone is considered innocent until proven guilty and nothing has been proven or adjudicated here. But we’re also witnessing a larger movement of women speaking up about sexual harassment because the fear of being dismissed or not beloved is melting away.”