Caitlin MacNeal

Caitlin MacNeal is a News Writer based in Washington, D.C. Before joining TPM, Caitlin interned and wrote for the Huffington Post, the Sunlight Foundation and Slate. She is a graduate of Georgetown University.

Articles by Caitlin

This post has been updated.

Prominent political journalist Mark Halperin apologized Wednesday night after five women told CNN that Halperin sexually harassed them while he was working at ABC News.

“During this period, I did pursue relationships with women that I worked with, including some junior to me,” Halperin said in a statement to CNN. “I now understand from these accounts that my behavior was inappropriate and caused others pain. For that, I am deeply sorry and I apologize. Under the circumstances, I’m going to take a step back from my day-to-day work while I properly deal with this situation.”

Halperin is a senior political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, and a co-author of best-selling “Game Change” campaign books.

MSNBC told CNN that Halperin will leave his role as an analyst for the network given the allegations.

“We find the story and the allegations very troubling,” MSNBC said in a statement to CNN. “Mark Halperin is leaving his role as a contributor until the questions around his past conduct are fully understood.”

Showtime, which produced a series on the 2016 campaign with Halperin called “The Circus, said Thursday afternoon that Showtime has not received complaints about Halperin’s behavior and that the network will consider the allegations made this week as it evaluates whether to create a second season.

“During Mark’s time working with us, we have not seen nor have there been allegations of any untoward behavior. We are aware of these reports and will continue to evaluate all options should we decide to move forward with another season of THE CIRCUS. There is no tolerance for sexual harassment within SHOWTIME and its productions,” the company said in a statement.

Five women told CNN that Halperin sexually harassed them while at ABC News, with some accusing him of inappropriately propositioning him and pressing his genitals against them without consent. Halperin served in powerful positions at ABC, including as the network’s political director, though none of the women who spoke with CNN say Halperin threatened their careers or promised to help them in exchange for sex.

In a statement to CNN, ABC News said that Halperin has not worked at the network for a while and that “no complaints were filed during his tenure.”

The five women told CNN that they did not report the incidents to human resources because they feared retribution from Halperin. They spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity because they know Halperin is an influential member of the media.

One woman told CNN that during the early 2000s, she went to meet Halperin in his office, where he allegedly proceeded to press his genitals against her, grab her breasts, and kiss her forcibly.

Another woman told CNN that during a meeting during the 2004 election cycle, she met with Halperin about her role in campaign coverage. During the meeting, Halperin pressed his genitals against her shoulder while she was sitting in a chair, she told CNN. He later propositioned her on the campaign trail, she told CNN.

Two other women also told CNN that Halperin propositioned her while on the road to cover a campaign. A fifth woman did not share many details, but told CNN that Halperin pressed his genitals against her while clothed.

Another woman on Thursday morning revealed that she was sexually harassed by Halperin, though she did not reveal the details of the incident. Emily Miller, a journalist and author of “Emily Gets Her Gun,” said she did not report the incident at the time.

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After speaking out about former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s behavior on her show earlier this week, Megyn Kelly on Wednesday night questioned why Fox News did not know the size of one of O’Reilly’s settlements.

The ousted Fox News host in January paid a $32 million settlement to a former Fox News analyst who accused him of sexual harassment and misconduct, and O’Reilly’s contract at Fox News was renewed not long after, the New York Times reported over the weekend. James Murdoch, the chief executive at 21st Century Fox, said that he had not previously been aware of the size of O’Reilly’s settlement.

“That’s not nuisance value,” Kelly told NBC’s “Late Night” host Seth Meyers of O’Reilly’s settlement. “Litigations happen all the time, a lot of them are nonsense and you pay some small amount to make them go away — $32 million is a different story.”

“And he was renewed at the company after he did that. And I know that Fox says it didn’t know,” she continued. “The question remains, why didn’t they? Why wouldn’t you know? Why wouldn’t you ask before you bring this man back into the workplace and unleash him on the workforce?”

Kelly told Meyers that she was moved to speak out about O’Reilly’s behavior and her decision to report it to the Fox News top brass earlier this week due to the size of O’Reilly’s settlement and his claim that he did not receive complaints about his behavior while he was at Fox. She said that she does not enjoy criticizing her former employer, but that she felt she needed to speak up about O’Reilly.

“They’ve got some great people,” she said. “He is not one of them.”

She also addressed the thank you notes that O’Reilly posted this week from Kelly and Gretchen Carlson, another former Fox News host who says she was sexually harassed at the network. O’Reilly argued that the notes prove he had a positive relationship with female employees at the network.

“Ask yourselves, who keeps thank you notes from nine years earlier and puts them in a file just in case they need them,” Kelly told Meyers before noting it’s possible for someone to have a good relationship with a coworker before obtaining new information that changes her mind.

Watch the clip via NBC:

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During an interview with Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs that aired Wednesday night, President Donald Trump spent several minutes complaining about news coverage of his presidency and bashing the media.

Trump’s rant came after Dobbs told the President that he was one of the most “reviled” presidents, but also one of the most “loved and respected.”

“How does that feel?” Dobbs asked.

In response, Trump lamented that he was “treated unfairly” by the media during the campaign, but that it “got much worse” after he was elected.

“They put on stories that are so false, they have so-called sources that in my opinion don’t exist,” he said. “They make it up. It is so dishonest. It is so fake.”

Trump then claimed credit for the phrase “fake news,” a term first used to describe incorrect news published on social media during the 2016 election, which was then appropriated by Trump when he took office.

“I’ve really started this whole fake news thing,” Trump told Dobbs. “What could be more fake than CBS and NBC and ABC and CNN when you look at some of these stories?”

The President then touted his ability to fight back against news coverage, claiming that he convinces his social media followers that news stories are false.

“At least I can put out the truth and put out the real word. And people agree,” he said. “If you look at it from the day I started running to now, I’m so proud I have been able to convince people how fake it is, because it has taken a nosedive. Except for your show and Sean and a few of them.”

Dobbs ended the interview after Trump’s “fake news” rant by praising the President.

“You are everything as advertised when you ran for president and I appreciate everything you are doing,” Dobbs told Trump.

Watch part of the interview via the Fox Business Network:

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Former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward, so far the leading Republican candidate to replace Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), on Wednesday afternoon declared Flake’s retirement a “victory” and pitched herself as the “cure” for an anemic Congress.

“Jeff Flake stepping down yesterday was a big victory for voters of Arizona and the citizens of this country. Because we have got an optimistic path forward,” Ward told MSNBC’s Katy Tur.

Tur asked Ward if she agreed with Flake’s assessment that Trump is dangerous to American democracy. “I don’t,” Ward replied.

“What I agree with Sen. Flake is that there is a serious illness in Washington, D.C., and it is contagious, but it is swampitis and thank goodness we have a doctor who’s going to be coming to Washington to heal those ills,” she added, later clarifying that she is that doctor.

Ward, known for her fierce support of Trump and her willingness to engage with chemtrail conspiracy theorists, touted herself as an outsider who will prioritize Trump’s agenda.

She said that the Senate has “become an obstructionary body” due to “problems with the D.C. insider crowd pandering to special interests rather than listening to voters.” Ward said voters want Republicans to secure the border, cut taxes and repeal Obamacare.

“The Republican Party has to get its act together and put those things on the President’s desk. That’s why 2018 will be a watershed election for strong conservatives, me included, as well as others across the country,” she said on MSNBC.

At one point described Ward also herself as an “Americanist,” though it’s not entirely clear what she meant by the term, which is typically used to describe an academic who studies American culture.

Ward has been backed by Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist now hell-bent on electing far-right conservatives to Congress. Now that Flake has dropped out of the race, however, Republicans will likely recruit a more established politician to run for the Senate seat against Ward.

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Conservatives had a collective meltdown on Twitter following a Tuesday report from the Washington Post that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee had paid a Washington firm to conduct research that resulted in the infamous dossier alleging ties between President Donald Trump and Russia.

Several right-wing pundits and writers claimed that the Post’s reporting is proof positive the Clinton campaign colluded with Russia, even though it’s not clear who the former British spy who compiled the dossier relied on for the information contained in it.

Echoing a charge President Trump himself made on Twitter last week, Sean Davis, co-founder of The Federalist, suggested that the FBI colluded with Democrats and Russia, given that the FBI offered to pay Steele for the dossier after the Clinton campaign and the DNC helped fund his work. However, according to the Post’s report, the FBI never ended up paying Steele after his name started appearing in news reports.

Conservatives argued that the media should be just as enraged by Tuesday’s revelations as it is about the probes into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, decrying what they perceived as hypocrisy.

“If we found out that Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee had paid a firm working for the Russians to create a file of fabricated attacks on Hillary Clinton during the election, would the media treat it as an impeachable offense?” David Harsanyi wrote in The Federalist. “Would such efforts be considered an attack on the foundations of our democracy? Would liberal columnists make sensationalistic claims that the Russians had ‘carried out a successful plan to pick the government of the United States’? Would they argue that the election had been rigged? Would they demand that Republicans pick their country over their party? Of course they would.”

Conservatives on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning seized on the Post report to paint the dossier as a political attempt to take down Trump; that does have truth to it, since it resulted from opposition research first commissioned by Republicans during the GOP primary and then funded by Democrats in the general election stretch. But while some of the dossier’s allegations, including the most salacious ones, remain unverified, other parts of the dossier, such as its claims that Russian hackers breached Democratic Party campaign committees, have been confirmed or shored up by news reports that have trickled out since the election.

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In contrast to his colleague Jeff Flake, Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) does not think it’s his job to call out President Donald Trump when he makes baseless, untruthful claims.

Flake called on GOP senators to speak out against Trump in a barnburner of a speech Tuesday afternoon announcing his retirement from the Senate. After Flake’s speech, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Risch, “When [Trump] lies about something and you know it’s a lie, shouldn’t you speak up?”

“That’s your job,” Risch quickly responded.

Blitzer then argued that it is Risch’s job as a senator to challenge untruths.

In response, Risch said it would be too time-consuming for him to address every statement from a lawmaker with whom he doesn’t agree.

“Wolf, if I went around criticizing a statement that was made by the President, or any one of my fellow senators, or any one of the congressmen up here, or people in Idaho who hold public office, and I stood up and talked every time they talked and said, ‘I don’t like this, I don’t like that,’ I’m criticizing — I’d be busy all day long,” Risch said.

Blitzer pointed to Flake’s argument that Republicans who do not stand up to Trump are “complicit.”

“That’s his view,” Risch replied. “That is not my view.”

Watch a clip from the interview via CNN:

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After announcing Tuesday afternoon that he will not run for re-election in 2018, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on Wednesday morning described how Republican politics have changed in a way that made it impossible for him to win his primary.

“The bottom line is if I were to run a campaign that I can could be proud of and where I didn’t have to cozy up to the President and his positions or his behavior, I could not win in a Republican primary. That’s the bottom line. It’s not that you have just to be with the President on policy. You can’t question his behavior and still be a Republican in good standing, apparently, in a Republican primary,” Flake said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

The senator said that polls show that the most important issue to Republican primary voters is support for Trump.

“And they take any criticism of the President as somehow something that’s not conservative. And that’s what’s got to change,” Flake said.

Flake told MSNBC that he has suddenly become a RINO, a Republican In Name Only.

“Republicans have changed quite a bit, that’s all I can say,” he said.

He said that to win a Republican primary now, you have to be “angry” and to stand with Trump no matter what.

“The problem is, it seems now to be conservative you have to be angry. And it’s a different type of politics than we’re used to, you and me,” he told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman.

Flake said that this dynamic “may be more pronounced in Arizona than some other states, but it’s not unique.”

Watch Flake’s interview on “Morning Joe” via MSNBC:

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After announcing his retirement from the Senate on Tuesday in a rousing speech criticizing the Republican Party’s transformation under President Donald Trump, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) followed up with an op-ed in the Washington Post drawing a parallel between Trump and Joseph McCarthy.

Flake began the op-ed by describing a speech from Joseph Welch, who famously told McCarthy, “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

“The moral power of Welch’s words ended McCarthy’s rampage on American values, and effectively his career as well,” Flake wrote in his Tuesday evening op-ed. “After Welch said his piece, the hearing room erupted in applause, those in attendance seemingly shocked by such bracing moral clarity in the face of a moral vandal. Someone had finally spoken up and said: Enough.”

Flake said that Welch “reawakened the conscience of the country.”

“We face just such a time now. We have again forgotten who we are supposed to be,” the senator wrote. “There is a sickness in our system — and it is contagious.”

Flake did not mention Trump by name, but criticized the President’s attacks on Gold Star families and his “childish insults” aimed at foreign leaders.

“How much more damage to our democracy and to the institutions of American liberty do we need to witness in silence before we count ourselves as complicit in that damage?” Flake asked. “Nine months of this administration is enough for us to stop pretending that this is somehow normal, and that we are on the verge of some sort of pivot to governing, to stability.”

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As the feud between President Donald Trump and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) escalated on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to address the war of words and insisted that Republicans would remain unified in their quest to cut taxes, no matter the obstacles.

McConnell faced a barrage of questions from reporters about the latest back and forth between Corker and Trump after the President met with Republican senators during their weekly lunch. The Tennessee senator ramped up his criticisms of the President earlier in the morning, lamenting that Trump is “debasing” the country. Those remarks in turn prompted several angry tweets from Trump just hours before the President met with Senate Republicans.

Asked about Corker’s comment that Trump struggles with the truth, and whether he thinks the tension between Trump and Corker could undercut the GOP’s efforts to cut taxes, McConnell said he had nothing to say.

“I don’t have any observation about that,” he told reporters. “We’re here to try to accomplish things for the American people. We’re all on the same page on the issues that I’ve mentioned and of course front and center is comprehensive tax reform.”

McConnell also declined to reply directly when asked whether Trump’s feuding with senators hurts the Republican agenda. The majority leader instead insisted that tax reform is the ultimate unifier.

“If there’s anything all Republicans think are important to the country, and to our party, it’s comprehensive tax reform. The issue itself brings about great unity among our members,” McConnell said, adding that Trump shares the Senate GOP’s agenda and will do a great job promoting it.

When asked if he has an obligation to address criticisms of Trump from prominent Republicans like Corker and former President George W. Bush, McConnell again refused to cede any ground.

“What I have an obligation to do, is to try to achieve the greatest cohesion I can among 52 Republicans,” he said. “And tax reform is what we are about. If there’s anything that unifies Republicans, it’s tax reform.”

“We’re going to concentrate on what our agenda is and not any of these other distractions that you all may be interested in,” he added.

Finally, when asked about the Corker feud one more time, McConnell simply said that everyone has a right to speak their minds.

“There’s a lot of noise out there. You have a first amendment in this country. Everyone has a right to express themselves,” the majority leader said. “I think there’s great cohesion among Republicans of all persuasions to achieve this goal before the end of the year.”

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Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) escalated his criticisms of President Donald Trump on Tuesday morning in a series of interviews with major news networks, calling on the President to back off of tax reform and relations with North Korea and predicting that he will be remembered for the “debasement” of the United States.

Corker, who’s been blunt with his thoughts about the President ever since announcing he wouldn’t run for re-election next year, made the comments over the course of several hours. He appeared on NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America, and CBS’ “This Morning” for planned interviews, but made some of his most stunning comments in a hallway interview with CNN later in the morning.

Below are the highlights:

He said Trump will be remembered for ‘debasement’ of the U.S.

Asked if the President is a good role model for young people in the country, Corker emphatically said Trump is not—and predicted that he will be most remembered for debasing the country.

“I think at the end of the day when his term is over, I think the debasement of our nation is what he’ll be remembered most for, and that’s regretful. It affects young people,” Corker told CNN. “I mean, we have young people who for the first time are watching a president, stating, you know, absolute nontruths nonstop. Personalizing things in the way that he does. It’s very sad for our nation.”

He thinks Trump won’t “rise to the occasion as President”

The Tennessee senator told several networks that it’s beginning to look like Trump will not change his behavior in office.

“I guess like all Americans I would have hoped that he would rise to the occasion and bring out the best in our nation,” he told CBS. “Hopefully what presidents do is to try to bring the country together, unify around common goals and not to debase our country, if you will, and that has not happened. And I’m beginning to believe it’s not going to happen.”

“I don’t really hold out a lot of hope, but I hope somehow a little bit different course of action can be taken,” Corker added later on CNN.

He also told CNN that Trump is “not going to rise to the occasion as president.”

He won’t be voting for Trump in 2020

Corker said definitively that he would not back Trump’s re-election in 2020.

When asked if he regrets backing Trump in 2016, Corker told CNN, “Let’s just put it this way, I would not do that again.” Asked if he would back Trump in 2020, Corker replied, “No way. No way.”

“I think that he’s proven himself unable to rise to the occasion, and I think many of us, me included, have tried to, you know—I’ve intervened, I’ve had a private dinner and have been with him on multiple occasions to try and create some kind of aspirational approach, if you will, to the way that he conducts himself,” he said. “I don’t think that that’s possible.”

He thinks Trump doesn’t have any “desire to be competent”

Corker believes Trump is simply unwilling to be a competent leader.

“I expressed concerns a few weeks ago about his leadership, and just his stability and the lack of desire to be competent on issues and understand, and, you know, nothing has changed,” he told CNN.

He thinks Trump tries to “purposely divide” the country

The senator said on CBS that Trump has acted as a divider rather than a unifier, particularly in the wake of violence at the fatal white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“It appears to be the governing model of this White House to purposefully divide,” Corker told CBS. “An individual in that particular position has tremendous power to set the tone for our country, and unfortunately, it’s being set in a way that I think is not bringing out the best in the citizens that we all treasure here in our country.”

He believes Trump is “untruthful”—and world leaders know it

While discussing generally how Trump constantly tells what he chose to label “untruths,” Corker noted that world leaders have picked up on Trump’s habit of playing fast and loose with the facts.

“Unfortunately, I think world leaders are very aware that much of what he says is untrue,” he told CNN. “Certainly people here are because these things are provably untrue, I mean, they are factually incorrect and people know the difference. So I don’t know why he lowers himself to such a low, low standard, and debases our country in a way that he does, but he does.”

Trump’s “kneecapping” Tillerson could lead to war, he said

Corker lamented on ABC that Trump has undermined Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, warning that Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric could lead the U.S. into a war.

“When you look at the fact that we’ve got this issue in North Korea and the President continues to kneecap his diplomatic representative, the secretary of state, and really move him away from successful diplomatic negotiations with China, which is key to this, you’re taking us on a path to combat,” Corker said.

“I would just like him to leave it to the professionals for a while and see if we can do something that’s constructive for our country, the region, and the world,” he added later.

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