Investigators hired by The Boston Globe have concluded that its editor, Brian McGrory, did not violate the company’s anti-harassment policy in personal text exchanges with a former Boston.com writer and editor, the newspaper announced to staff Thursday afternoon.
The former writer and editor, Hilary Sargent, had accused McGrory of sending her inappropriate, sexually suggestive messages, which prompted the Globe to launch the investigation in May.
“While the investigation revealed a series of exchanges and interactions between Mr. McGrory and Ms. Sargent that were of a personal nature, the investigator found that they were initiated by and reciprocated by both parties, and did not violate our anti-harassment policy,” Globe executives said in a letter to staff.
“We have addressed this personnel matter directly with Mr. McGrory, and will not comment further out of respect for the privacy of the individuals involved,” read the note, signed by Claudia Henderson, the Globe’s chief human resources officer, and Dan Krockmalnic, general counsel.
McGrory has denied harassing Sargent, who worked for the Globe-owned news website Boston.com from 2014 to 2016. McGrory, who has disclosed he dated Sargent many years ago, has said repeatedly that he has fully cooperated with the paper’s investigation.
He said by e-mail Thursday evening, “I’m relieved the review is concluded and don’t believe further comment would be appropriate.”
In a series of tweets Thursday evening, Sargent expressed doubt about the legitimacy of the investigation. She told the Globe her tweets would be her statement on the matter.
“If the Globe wants to stage an investigation in order to build a convenient narrative to save its editor, go for it. I can’t stop you,” she wrote. “But don’t pretend — for a second — that it’s the *right* thing to do. You know better.”
The Globe’s statement did not describe what steps were taken to investigate the allegations or reveal whether McGrory had been disciplined in any way. A Globe spokeswoman said the company would be making no further comment on the personnel matter.
The Globe hired an outside law firm, Proskauer Rose LLP, to conduct the investigation after Sargent in May posted on Twitter a screenshot of a text exchange in which one of the parties asks the other, “What do you generally wear when you write?” She attributed the question to McGrory.
In an accompanying tweet, she wrote: “Don’t respond to a female employee who is asking for advice about writing with an inquiry about what she wears while she attempts to write. Just. Don’t.”
Sargent later said in a court filing that she could not specifically recall whether the exchange occurred when she was employed by Boston.com, but said it was “merely an example of the nature of messages McGrory sent me during the time I was employed at the Globe which I believe are inappropriate and sexually suggestive.”
In a note to staff addressing the accusation in May, McGrory said that he did not recall the text exchange Sargent had posted, but that after Sargent left the organization, “we would sometimes exchange text messages that included the kind of personal banter of two people very familiar with each other.”
The Globe filed a lawsuit against Sargent days after her posting, seeking to use a clause in her separation agreement with the company to compel her to answer questions about the text exchange, including when it was sent.
After an initial court hearing, the Globe dropped the suit in June, expressing hope that Sargent would meet with investigators voluntarily. Sargent’s lawyer, Jack Siegal, said after the suit was dropped that Sargent was open to speaking with the Globe “without litigation and threats of reprisal.” Sargent met with investigators on July 2. At the time, Siegal said, “Women who speak out about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace shouldn’t be ignored, silenced, slandered, or sued. We hope the Globe will make the right decision going forward.”
As the controversy first unfolded two months ago, Sargent issued a statement saying: “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.”
The Globe’s employee handbook defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when, for example: submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment; submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.”
McGrory, a longtime columnist and onetime metro editor, was named Globe editor in December 2012. He has recused himself from the Globe’s coverage of Sargent’s allegations.Mark Arsenault can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark