Game Change co-author Mark Halperin went on SiriusXM’s Michael Smerconish‘s program Thursday with the hope of setting his life on a better path. He wants people to feel comfy with him again. He’s sorry for what he did and for being an imperfect man. More importantly, he wants to work. He has a family to support. He wants the respect of his two-year-old son.
All fair points.
But listening to Smerconish treat Halperin with kid gloves throughout the entire interview was beyond strange. It was as though he was speaking to an earthquake victim, as opposed to someone who has allegedly sexually harassed or assaulted as many as a dozen women in creepy ways that included groping, pressing his clothed erect genitals on women (which Halperin has denied) and masturbating in their presence at ABC. There is also an incident in which Halperin allegedly greeted a young female campaign operative at his hotel room wearing an open bathrobe.
The delicate voice Smerconish used to speak to Halperin was fingernails on a chalkboard. Is there a reason why Smerconish twisted himself into a Wounded Peacock yoga pose to make Halperin feel like he was laying in Shavasana?
For 500 long, hard days, Halperin has been virtually silent except for one statement of regret. In 2017, NBC News and MSNBC fired him after the stories of sexual misconduct emerged. (RELATED: NBC Severs Ties With Mark Halperin) This is the first time he has spoken out. On Tuesday, NYP‘s “Page Six” reported that he has been volunteering with ex-prisoners from Rikers Island with The Fortune Society, a non-profit that helps hardened criminals re-enter society.
The item leapt off the page at Smerconish and he just had to hear more. “I would love to know more about it,” he said on Tuesday’s show. “I would like to invite Mark Halperin onto the program to discuss what he’s been doing, where he has been for the last year-and-a-half, what thoughts he might have on all that has on all that has transpired with the #MeToo movement in the last year and a half.”
So here he is. Smerconish welcomed him to his show. Halperin, in turn, thanked him profusely, as if someone was giving him a fresh tank of oxygen for the first time in six months.
Smerconish began, “Hey, Mark. Thanks so much for coming back to the program.”
Halperin (in a low, monotone voice): “My pleasure. You’re nice to invite me. I really appreciate it.”
Smerconish began with an easy one: “Tell me about the prison work.”
“These are people who’ve made mistakes in their lives, and some [have] served 40 years or more, they need to learn to do the work — the work to understand and take responsibility for what they did,” Halperin said, explaining that some of them are even murderers. “They need to earn their way back to society and that’s something I’ve obviously had to grapple with for myself. … I’m so honored and grateful for them for giving me a chance to work with them.”
The undertones of this interview are as important as what was said. In other words, if a murderer can get an apartment and a job, can’t people in the news business find it in their small hearts and big pocketbooks to forgive Halperin?
Smerconish asked, “Has it been a form of penance from events that caused your own exit from the public stage?”
The host might as well have thrown him a Nerf ball.
More than once, Halperin said he volunteered because he had “the time” to do it. He thought it was a “good use of his time.” Nothing better to do, so why not? He’s also extra grateful to The Fortune Society for even allowing him to work with the likes of their clients. Yeah, he’s lucky to work with murderers after the stuff he pulled.
Halperin said he knows he needs to “earn his way” back. He says he has had “literally hundreds” of conversations with women, some of whom have been sexually harassed to understand why it is so painful. That he needed conversations with hundreds of women to understand this is painful.
But there were also eye-popping remarks within his contrition. For instance, “I’m happy to be judged by perfect people…”
And this … which may be the larger truth in all this: “I want to be someone who can work.”
Smerconish read out a statement of profound apology that Halperin posted a year and a half ago on social media. Smerconish marveled that this was the only thing Halperin has tweeted in 500 days.
“There’s nothing else in your Twitter feed!” the host exclaimed.
“I’d like to take the opportunity again to apologize to the women I mistreated who told their stories and who were hurt by me,” he said, also apologizing to his family, friends and colleagues. “… I wasn’t a perfect person when I made these mistakes. I’m not a perfect person now. I’m happy to be judged by perfect people, but what I want to do is continue to understand and have conversations. I want to be someone who can work…because I have to support a family. I want my son to grow up respecting me and seeing in me a fuller person.”
Smerconish wondered aloud, “I know that everyone might not be receptive to hearing from Mark Halperin. What would you say to those people?”
“I totally understand that and that’s everybody’s individual choice,” Halperin said. “I don’t have any negative feelings towards people who are not interested in what I have to say. … I like to believe that we live in a society … where people would let me be part of the conversation again in some capacity.”
At this point he again mentions the criminals he helped who have spent 40 years in prison. “I look at my burden the same way,” he said. “I did things that were wrong.”
More cringe-y conversation.
“You ready to talk politics?” Smerconish asked.
Halperin replied, “Up to you. I’m willing to talk about politics or anything else you like.”
Halperin took yet another moment to apologize.
“I’ll just emphasize again that I couldn’t be more sorry for what I did and have had so much time to think about it and I’m just, I’m grateful to The Fortune Society,” he said. “I’m also so grateful to the people who have been willing to share their experiences with me. Women who have been sexually harassed [have] explained to me why it’s such a deeply troubling thing, to give me a fuller understanding. And as I said, I’m not done. I’m not done learning. I’m not done understanding myself or understanding this problem in our society, and I feel that I’ve learned enough that hopefully I can be allowed to be reintegrated into society a little bit more, and to be able to use the experiences I’ve had to be a productive part of making things better and contributing.”
Smerconish asked about the video that ex-V.P. Joe Biden released Tuesday in which he did not apologize to the women who he did not sexually harass. (RELATED: 2 Minutes With Joe Biden Talking About Respecting Personal Space)
Halperin replied, “I thought we might discuss this topic, and I just want to say to refer back to where we started, that there are probably people out there who aren’t the least bit interested in what I have to say about a topic like this. … I think this is a bit of a distraction. As serious as the charges are, and then as important as this debate is, I think Joe Biden is, despite his standing in the polls, an extremely overrated candidate. He has run before and failed miserably.”
He went on, “He is an old face. The fact that he is not being supported by Barack Obama, I think is an extraordinary slap in the face, and there are leading Democrats in this country with national political experience. Both candidates, previous candidates and consultants, who I’ve spoken to who love Joe Biden, just like Barack Obama loves Joe Biden, who say that he will be unsuccessful in winning the party nomination.”
Put those Eskimo kisses out of your mind. Halperin dinged Biden for his lack of fundraising expertise: “He is a horrible fundraiser, in terms of big money fundraising, he’s a horrible fundraiser in terms of internet fundraising. He’s a wonderful man and he’s got a great family and a great life story, and he’s been a committed public servant and I have liked him personally as someone I covered for my entire career practically, but I’m here to tell you that this latest problem, I think is getting rightfully a lot of attention, but it is far from his only problem.”
Ever since Halperin’s TV journalism career hit the skids, MSNBC “Morning Joe” couple Joe and Mika Scarborough have been looking for ways to help him. Mika initially wanted to bring some of Halperin’s accusers together with Halperin — for what, a slumber party? She later apologized for being so insensitive.
Scarborough tweeted out this latest interview from Smerconish without comment.
“Mark Halperin Speaks, Personally and Politically,” he wrote.
The pair are old friends and the meaning couldn’t have been more clear:
Give this man another chance.