Entertainment

Harassment claims surface against Game Change author Mark Halperin, Artforum publisher, George H.W. Bush

In the wake of mounting allegations against Harvey Weinstein, a flood of women have come forward recently about being sexually harassed by powerful men in entertainment, media and beyond.

Halperin, Bush offer apologies; Knight Landesman resigns

In the wake of the dozens of allegations against Harvey Weinstein, a flood of women have come forward about being sexually harassed by powerful men in entertainment, media and other industries, with veteran journalist Mark Halperin (from left), art magazine publisher Knight Landesman and former U.S. president George H.W. Bush among the latest accused. (Associated Press/Getty Images)

In the wake of mounting allegations against Harvey Weinstein, a flood of women have come forward about being sexually harassed by powerful men in entertainment, media and other industries, with veteran political journalist Mark Halperin, art magazine publisher Knight Landesman and former U.S. president George H.W. Bush among the latest accused.

Halperin — co-author of the bestseller Game Change and currently a political analyst for NBC News — apologized Wednesday evening for "inappropriate" behaviour after CNN reported that five women have claimed he sexually harassed them while he was a top ABC News executive.

NBC announced early Thursday that it was suspending him from his role as a contributor "until the questions around his past conduct are fully understood."

Halperin's statement came after CNN reported allegations that Halperin propositioned, fondled and pushed himself against five women (who asked to remain anonymous) in the early 2000s while he was ABC News' political director. The women said they didn't report Halperin's conduct at the time because they feared retribution or were embarrassed.

Halperin told CNN Wednesday night that he's "deeply sorry" and is taking a "step back" from day-to-day work to deal with the situation.

HBO said Thursday that it is spiking plans for a miniseries based on an upcoming book about the 2016 presidential election by Halperin and John Heilemann. "HBO has no tolerance for sexual harassment within the company or its productions," the company said in an emailed statement.

Showtime, where Halperin has co-hosted the political series The Circus, said Thursday it had not heard of any allegations of untoward behaviour. "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," the network said.

Resignation submitted as lawsuit filed

Also on Wednesday, Landesman, publisher of renowned contemporary art magazine Artforum, resigned after a former employee filed a lawsuit accusing him of sexually harassing her for years.

The New York Times reports the suit, filed in state court in Manhattan on Wednesday, accuses Landesman of harassing Amanda Schmitt after she started working at Artforum in 2009. The suit alleges he groped her repeatedly, sent harassing messages over several years, even after she left the magazine and told him to stop, and that the magazine's owners were aware of his behaviour, but did little to stop it. 

The magazine's other publishers issued a statement saying Landesman had "engaged in unacceptable behaviour and caused a hostile work environment."

"We will do everything in our ability to bring our workplace in line with our editorial mission, and we will use this opportunity to transform Artforum into a place of transparency, equity, and with zero tolerance for sexual harassment of any kind," the statement said.

​"I fully recognize that I have tested certain boundaries, which I am working hard to correct," Landesman, 67, told Artnet News in an email.

"I have never wilfully or intentionally harmed anyone. However, I am fully engaged in seeking help to insure that my behaviour with both friends and colleagues is above reproach in the future."

Actresses describe similar groping

Meanwhile, two actresses have come forward with allegations that former president Bush groped them.

Former U.S. president George H.W. Bush, left, is seen receiving a tri-corner hat from actress Heather Lind at a March 2014 promotional event in Houston for the AMC series Turn: Washington's Spies. (Aaron M. Sprecher/Invision for AMC/Associated Press)

Heather Lind revealed in a now-deleted Instagram post that while she was posing for a photo with Bush in Houston during the 2014 promotional tour for her AMC series TURN: Washington's Spies, he touched her from behind, told a dirty joke and touched her backside again.

After being alerted to Lind's accusation, Jordana Grolnick also recounted a similar story to industry outlet Deadline on Wednesday night. Grolnick said that Bush had similarly grabbed her backside in August 2016, during a visit to a Maine theatre company where she was working and which is located near the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport.

He reached his right hand around to my behind, and as we smiled for the photo he asked the group, "Do you want to know who my favourite magician is?"  As I felt his hand dig into my flesh, he said, "David Cop-a-Feel!"- Jordana Grolnick

"He reached his right hand around to my behind, and as we smiled for the photo he asked the group, 'Do you want to know who my favourite magician is?' As I felt his hand dig into my flesh, he said, 'David Cop-a-Feel!'" Grolnick recounted to Deadline.

In both cases, the women noted that former first lady Barbara Bush was present and that others warned not to stand next to the former president.

"At age 93, President Bush has been confined to a wheelchair for roughly five years, so his arm falls on the lower waist of people with whom he takes pictures. To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke — and on occasion, he has patted women's rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner," Bush spokesman Jim McGrath said in a statement Wednesday evening.

"Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely."

More than four dozen actresses have gone public in the past few weeks with allegations of sexual harassment or assault by disgraced Hollywood mogul Weinstein, following explosive exposés in The New York Times and The New Yorker. Since then, millions of women and men have spoken out about their own experiences of being sexually harassed or assaulted via social media, using hashtags like #metoo.

With files from CBC News.