We haven’t even hit the two-year anniversary of the viral MeToo movement and, already, two high-profile men are making successful comebacks. Today, the Washington Post reports that political commentator Mark Halperin, who was accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and physical assault, has landed a new book deal about the 2020 campaign, to the outrage of some of his alleged victims. This follows the news that Glenn Thrush, the New York Times reporter accused of sexually inappropriate behavior toward female colleagues, has been assigned to a prestigious role covering “the candidates and the campaign” during the 2020 campaign.
When the allegations surfaced in the fall of 2017, garnering a flood of media coverage, it seemed both men’s lives were about to drastically change. Fast forward just under 24 months: These two men, accused of sexual misconduct, are being vaulted right back into not just any influential position but roles that will allow them to shape our understanding of this presidential campaign, which at this point features multiple politicians accused of acts ranging from inappropriate behavior to sexual assault. (Additionally, candidates’ teams have been accused of insufficiently addressing complaints of workplace misconduct, a plot arc that these men and their linked institutions might have difficulty assessing objectively.)
Meaning, these promotions and book deals aren’t just absurdly meaningful for the future of, uh, our democracy, but they also seem to augur the inevitable endpoint of the #MeToo movement. Media commentators and Hollywood actors alike have cautioned that the movement was “going too far,” but these warnings certainly haven’t amounted to much—at least in the case of Halperin and Thrush. It’s worse than that, though: Their continued success punctures the simple hope of meaningful consequences for the accused.
Of course, both Halperin and Thrush faced consequences, initially. After multiple women accused Halperin of sexual harassment and assault—including allegedly putting his penis on a colleague’s shoulder during a meeting—he lost TV commentating gigs for MSNBC, NBC, and Showtime; and HBO canceled plans for a project based on his book Game Change, reports the Post. But now he’s back at it with a book deal, and Halperin’s also relaunched his blog and started making appearances on Michael Smerconish’s SiriusXM radio show. When multiple female journalists accused Thrush of nonconsensual groping and kissing, he was demoted from the prestigious White House beat, but these months later has been returned to a coveted position. Thrush also lost a book deal as a result, but got to keep his advance; ultimately, his would-be co-author Maggie Haberman who, facing the consequences of Thrush’s behavior, had to repay her advance.
We’re still several weeks away from the two-year anniversary of the #MeToo movement, which shows how little time it took for these men to be deemed worthy of redemption. (Note, too, that Louis C.K. is touring comedy clubs and Aziz Ansari got a recent Netflix comedy special. Charlie Rose, Garrison Keillor, and Matt Lauer are also reportedly planning comebacks.) In justifying Halperin’s book deal, Judith Regan, the head of Regan Arts, told Politico: “I do not in any way, shape, or form condone any harm done by one human being to another. I have also lived long enough to believe in the power of forgiveness, second chances, and offering a human being a path to redemption.”
Just what Halperin has done to earn this redemption, other than pass the time, is unclear: He “has denied any unwanted physical contact,” according to the Post, while apologizing for inappropriate or painful “behavior.” As Dianna Goldberg May, who accused Halperin of repeated harassment while working at ABC News, told the Post, “Until Mark demonstrates any understanding of how destructive his behaviors were to so many, he doesn’t deserve another platform.” Eleanor McManus, who accused Halperin of harassment, told the Daily Beast, “He has yet to take responsibility for his actions by apologizing to his victims or demonstrating genuine contrition,” she said. “Giving him a book once again puts him in a position of authority and that is a slap in the face to all the women that he has victimized.”
Similarly, Thrush took issue with some of the allegations against him, but also apologized in a statement “to any woman who felt uncomfortable in my presence, and for any situation where I behaved inappropriately.” Thrush said he was seeking treatment for alcoholism. At the time of Thrush’s reassignment at the New York Times, executive editor Dean Baquet said in a statement, “While we believe that Glenn has acted offensively, we have decided that he does not deserve to be fired.” Now, he’s being offered “forgiveness, second chances.”
The short passage of time, the smallest of apologies, the public charade of punishment—these things were enough to get Halperin and Thrush, accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, their “path to redemption,” and they’re on the fast track. We’re not talking about the ability to get just any job, to make some kind of living in the wake of such allegations: Halperin and Thrush have been re-installed in critically influential positions of power. By now, it should be clear that the cautions over #MeToo “going too far” or doling out excessive punishment has, emphatically, not panned out. In fact, those warnings were driven by the same elements that paved the way for Halperin’s and Thrush’s comebacks: not only a fundamental belief in male entitlement, but also a prioritization and magnification of men’s pain.