Mother Jones reminds us that “Fourteen women alleged that Halperin had groped them or made unwanted sexual advances during and after his tenure as the political director of ABC News from 1997 to 2007. (Halperin has made vague apologies but disputed several of the allegations, such as slamming a woman into a wall, masturbating in front of another, and pressing an erection through his clothes onto three others.)”
Halperin’s defense when he attempted a comeback in 2019: “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.” Mr. Halperin, I freely admit none of us are perfect, but most of us are not sexual harassers. You need a better excuse than not being perfect. Just as “he was a teenager!” does not excuse Brett Kavanaugh’s history of sexual assault.
And like people who scream “we are all sinners” when they or someone they care about is caught doing something wrong, I doubt Halperin thinks that as he’s not perfect, he shouldn’t judge other people.
Now his latest take, quoted in MoJo is that “murderers in our society who get out of prison are afforded an opportunity to go on with some aspect of their life. The challenge to a lot of people who are canceled is there’s no mechanism for that, regardless of what they’ve done, regardless of whether they’ve tried to make amends.”
In point of fact, getting out of prison with a felony on your rap sheet can screw up the rest of your life; it can be damn hard to go on with your life if you’re an ex-con. Halperin hasn’t paid any penalty beyond losing his job; not that this isn’t painful (I’ve lost much crappier jobs than his old gig and it still stung) but getting fired for assaulting women and not immediately landing another gig is not cancellation.
Plus he did land another gig, working at the No Labels organization for well above $200,000. That would suggest he’s not canceled at all — or that what he calls cancellation is “people won’t completely forget that I’m a sexual harasser.”
I agree with Halperin there does have to be a path to redemption. But how exactly is he walking such a path? How has he tried to make amends? Losing his job is not making amends. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has suggested a three-part test in cases like this: was what the person did wrong by the standards of the time? Have they apologized? Have their views changed? The answers in Halperin’s case is that yes, what he did was obviously wrong; no, he hasn’t given a real apology; and there’s no evidence his views have changed. So he’s not off the hook, even though like so many other shitty men, he’s not paying a price.
I discuss more bullshit harassment defenses in Undead Sexist Cliches, available as a Amazon paperback, an ebook and from several other retailers. Cover by Kemp Ward, all rights remain with current holder.