Metro

Lawyer for Globe editor calls statements false

The offices of the Boston Globe at 53 State Street in downtown Boston.
Lane Turner/Globe Staff
The offices of the Boston Globe at 53 State Street in downtown Boston.

Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory, through his personal lawyer, has accused a former Boston.com employee of making “false and defamatory statements” against him that “are and continue to be actionable” in court, according to a letter posted on social media Thursday.

McGrory was referring to claims on Twitter by Hilary Sargent, who was a writer and editor at the Globe-owned website Boston.com from 2014 to 2016. She has said on social media that McGrory sent her an inappropriate text; she posted a screenshot of an exchange in which one of the parties asks the other, “What do you generally wear when you write?” She attributed the question to McGrory. The screenshot does not identify the parties or indicate the date of the exchange.

Sargent wrote on Twitter of the text exchange: “If you’ve ever been sent a sext-type text from someone who was powerful enough that you felt you couldn’t do anything (other than panic/shake your head/cry), you’re not alone. The more we tweet these, the less they’ll send them.”

Advertisement

Top Globe managers told the newspaper’s staff in an internal memo on Wednesday that they are investigating the claims.

Get Metro Headlines in your inbox:
The 10 top local news stories from metro Boston and around New England delivered daily.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

McGrory, in his own note to the Globe staff Wednesday night, defended his record of hiring and promoting women and said he never harassed Sargent or any woman.

The letter from McGrory’s lawyer, Martin Murphy, dated Wednesday, was posted on Twitter Thursday by Emily Rooney, host of the WGBH show “Beat the Press.”

Murphy confirmed by e-mail that the letter was authentic and said: “Brian McGrory has no interest whatsoever in fighting with Hilary Sargent, in court or anywhere else. He does take serious issue with the suggestion that he sexually harassed her, and we thought it was important to communicate that to her lawyer, directly and explicitly.”

The letter Murphy sent says that Sargent failed to note in her accusation that she and McGrory used to date, that McGrory did not supervise her when she worked at Boston.com, and that she and McGrory remained in contact after she left the company in 2016, sometimes bantering by text.

Advertisement

The letter reads: “Ms. Sargent’s public statements place Mr. McGrory in a position where he has no choice but to formally demand through counsel (a) that Ms. Sargent immediately cease publishing defamatory information about Mr. McGrory, whether or not by name, falsely suggesting that he engaged in sexually harassing conduct toward her (or anyone else); and (b) that Ms. Sargent take steps to preserve all communications with or about Mr. McGrory in her possession given the prospect of pending litigation.”

Asked for comment, Sargent on Thursday referred a Globe reporter back to a statement she had made earlier in the week, as the controversy was unfolding: “Women deserve to be treated professionally and taken seriously. It is crucial that individuals in leadership positions are held to the same high standard of conduct that the Globe would expect of any individuals in leadership positions at other similarly powerful institutions. Those in leadership positions at media organizations have significant influence over how the issue of sexual harassment is covered, and the coverage they oversee should never be tainted or colored by their own missteps or misdeeds.”

Lawyers for the Globe this week sent Sargent a draft lawsuit that named her as a defendant.

That suit would seek to compel Sargent under the terms of her 2016 separation agreement from the organization to provide the newspaper more information about the text in question, such as the date, and would ask for unspecified damages.

The draft suit has not been filed, according to the company.

Advertisement

McGrory has recused himself from overseeing the Globe’s coverage of Sargent’s allegations against him.

Mark Arsenault can be reached at mark.arsenault@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark