Executives at Boston Globe Media Partners suspended the deputy editor of boston.com on Friday for creating a T-shirt design mocking a central figure in stories she had recently written.
Hilary Sargent broke a story this week about a series of e-mails sent by Harvard Business School associate professor Benjamin G. Edelman to a Chinese restaurant complaining about a $4 discrepancy in a takeout bill and demanding a refund of triple that sum.
On Wednesday evening, Sargent co-wrote a story containing an unverified e-mail message containing a racial slur that was purportedly sent by Edelman to the restaurant.
Boston.com, which is owned by Boston Globe Media Partners but operates independently from the Boston Globe newspaper and BostonGlobe.com, quickly removed the story and posted an editor's note explaining that the website had been unable to verify that Edelman sent the e-mail.
Edelman, in an e-mail to the Globe on Thursday, said he did not send the message containing the racial slur. "The e-mail you saw is a counterfeit, not sent by me," he said.
There is no indication that Edelman had sent the message with the slur.
On Wednesday, Sargent visited the website Zazzle.com and created a T-shirt design disparaging Edelman for being upset about $4, then posted a Twitter message linking to the design.
Corey Gottlieb, general manager of boston.com, said Friday that Sargent was suspended for one week for creating the T-shirt design.
"This decision was entirely related to the T-shirt" and was not part of any disciplinary action for the purported racial slur story, Gottlieb said. "We handled that internally."
Mike Sheehan, chief executive of the Boston Globe, said the T-shirt design was inappropriate. "It's an action we cannot and we don't condone, and we dealt with it swiftly and appropriately," he said.
Sargent apologized Friday evening. "I exercised poor judgment, and for that I am profoundly sorry. I accept the suspension, which I feel is appropriate, and look forward to returning to boston.com," she said in a statement.
Sheehan stressed that although boston.com has a separate newsroom staff, the company's management expects the same level of integrity from all of its journalists.
"While they are different enterprises . . . we have the same high expectations of all our people," he said.
Globe Editor Brian McGrory met with newsroom staff of the Boston Globe and BostonGlobe.com for 45 minutes on Friday afternoon to discuss Sargent's suspension and concerns that the unconfirmed story and the T-shirt design hurt public perceptions of the Globe.
Some reporters said many readers are not aware that early this year, the websites began operating separately and competitively.
"Some very talented people at boston.com, our worthy competitor, made a couple of very unfortunate errors of fact and judgment," McGrory said Friday night.
"It happens," McGrory said, "But what will also happen is that they'll learn some invaluable lessons, first and foremost that the standards and values of the Globe apply across all our sites."
Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.