For the political journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, work on the third installment of their popular “Game Change” book series — set to be an insiders’ account of the final two months of the 2016 presidential race — came to an abrupt halt last Wednesday at around 10 a.m.
That was when Mr. Heilemann received a call from a shaken Mr. Halperin, who informed his longtime partner in writing and reporting that CNN was about to publish a potentially damaging story. Several of Mr. Halperin’s former colleagues at ABC News had accused him of #sexual harassment and sexual assault.
It was a short conversation. Before it was over, Mr. Halperin said he was sorry.
“I had never heard of, been exposed to or had any inkling of the notion that he had engaged in any behavior that could be described in even the broadest sense of being sexual harassment or sexual assault,” Mr. Heilemann said, in his first public remarks since the claims against Mr. Halperin surfaced.
He added, “I was flabbergasted and shocked.”
The two men were among the most successful and well-compensated teams in journalism. Their nine-year partnership generated an Emmy Award-winning HBO film, a pair of lucrative television franchises and best-selling books that defined a now-common kind of gossipy political reporting.
The partnership is now over.
Hours after CNN’s report about Mr. Halperin, Penguin Press killed the pair’s coming book, and HBO pulled out of a planned mini-series based on it. Showtime, which airs their political documentary series, “The Circus,” said Mr. Halperin would not return.
In the interview, Mr. Heilemann said he was still coming to terms with the accusations that have been lodged against his longtime collaborator. Mr. Halperin — who has denied allegations of groping and assault, but acknowledged pursuing relationships with ABC colleagues — worked at ABC until 2007, roughly a year before he teamed up with Mr. Heilemann for “Game Change” during the 2008 presidential campaign.
“The bare nature of the accusations are horrific and shocking and terrible,” Mr. Heilemann said. “These behaviors are not the behaviors that I witnessed, and they’re not consistent with the person that I thought I knew. That’s not an excuse. That’s just the truth.”