- Political Director of ABC News since 1997
- Sent ABC news reporters a memo weeks before the 2004 election, telling them to downplay misstatements by Democratic candidate John Kerry but to magnify any misstatements by Republican candidate George Bush
- Son of leftwing foreign policy expert Morton Halperin
- Brother of former speechwriter to Democrat President Bill Clinton
Mark Halperin has been the Political Director of ABC News since 1997. In that role, he is responsible for the planning and editorial content of all political news on the network.
Halperin was born in 1965 in Bethesda, Maryland, the son of foreign policy specialist Morton Halperin. Mark's brother David Halperin served President Bill Clinton as a Special Assistant for National Security Affairs and as a speechwriter.
In 1987 Mark Halperin graduated from Harvard University, where he was Associate Managing Editor of the Harvard Crimson campus newspaper. He joined ABC News in January 1988 as a desk assistant, and then as a researcher, for World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. He worked with the investigative unit of World News Tonight and as a general assignment reporter in Washington until 1992.
In 1992 Halperin became a full-time off-air reporter traveling with then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton's presidential campaign. During that campaign, Halperin violated journalistic ethics by providing to Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos a copy ABC had obtained of Mr. Clinton's youthful "I loathe the military" letter written to his ROTC commander, according to Tom Rosenstiel's book Strange Bedfellows. Halperin thereby gave candidate Clinton days of advance warning to prepare his response before facing reporters' questions about this letter which Clinton had believed no longer existed.
Having helped Clinton win the election, Mark Halperin then covered the President-elect's transition to power and was assigned to White House coverage for the first two years of the Clinton administration. It concerned neither ABC nor Halperin that this White House reporter was the son of high-level Clinton appointee Morton Halperin.
In the fall of 1994 Mark Halperin became a producer with ABC's Special Events unit in New York. He created the daily ABC News online commentary and notebook The Note, which covered contemporary political events.
In 1997 Mark Halperin was promoted to Political Director of ABC News. That same year, his brother David began his four-year stint as speechwriter for President Clinton.
Weeks before the 2004 presidential election, Mark Halperin issued an October 8 internal memo to the staff of ABC News, directing his reporters to ignore or minimize misstatements by Democrat candidate John F. Kerry but to attack any misstatements by Republican incumbent George W. Bush. Wrote Halperin: "… [T]he current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done. Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and [makes] mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win.”
“We have a responsibility,” Halperin's memo continued, “to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides 'equally' accountable when the facts don't warrant that. I'm sure many of you have this week felt the stepped up Bush efforts to complain about our coverage. This is all part of their efforts to get away with as much as possible with the stepped up, renewed efforts to win the election by destroying Senator Kerry at least partly through distortions. … It's up to Kerry to defend himself, of course. But as one of the few news organizations with the skill and strength to help voters evaluate what the candidates are saying to serve the public interest, [n]ow is the time for all of us to step up and do that right.”
Halperin's 2004 memo was controversial not only in its content but also in its timing. It was delivered to ABC News personnel including Good Morning America co-host Charlie Gibson just hours before he was to select audience questions for the second presidential debate between President Bush and Senator Kerry, which Gibson would moderate.
In the fall of 2006, Halperin candidly acknowledged the media’s pervasive liberal bias. He wrote that "the Washington and political press corps operate with a good number of biases and predilections,” and that journalists widely share "liberal political positions" on issues such as gun control, homosexuality, abortion and religion. Halperin elaborated that journalists further share "a belief that government is a mechanism to solve the nation's problems; that more taxes on corporations and the wealthy are good ways to cut the deficit and raise money for social spending and don't have a negative effect on economic growth; and that emotional examples of suffering (provided by unions or consumer groups) are good ways to illustrate economic statistic stories.”
On another occasion Halperin stated that reporters are "overwhelmingly liberal," "hate the military," and are "blind" to their biases.
In June 2011, Halperin was sparked controversy with a comment he made as a guest on the "Morning Joe" newstalk program hosted by Joe Scarborough. Suggesting that President Barack Obama was "posturing" over a deal with the Republicans over spending cuts and tax rises, Halperin, mistakenly believing that the program was on a seven-second delay (allowing for objectionable language to be filtered out before airing), said: "I thought he [Obama] was kind of a dick yesterday." Shortly after the program, Halperin was suspended indefinitely by MSNBC. Said the network: "Mark Halperin's comments this morning were completely inappropriate and unacceptable," the broadcaster said in a statement. "We apologise to the president, the White House and all of our viewers.