Right after the #MeToo movement picked up a full head of steam last fall, former Boston.com editor Hilary Sargent started firing off tweets and calling people around town, demanding to know why The Boston Globe, which was reporting on everyone else’s transgressions, was not reporting on its own. For months, Sargent’s accusations were vague, but this week, she dropped the veil and named Globe Editor Brian McGrory as one who had sent her an inappropriate text while she was in the process of writing a story.
Since Sargent made the accusation, the media has been slow to pick up the story, even though it’s the talk of every newsroom in town. Seeking comment, WGBH News contacted Globe Managing Director Linda Pizzuti Henry, McGrory himself, and Jane Bowman, the Globe’s vice president of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships. Only Bowman responded saying, “We are aware of Hilary Sargeant's (sic) tweets. We have no comment at this time.”
WGBH News contributor Dan Kennedy obtained a copy of the note Henry and Globe President Vinay Mehra sent to staffers on Wednesday. "When we first learned about the social media discussion mentioned above, we began investigating to gather as much relevant information as we could," they wrote. "We discussed the issue with Brian in an attempt to understand both the nature of any exchanges between the two parties and also whether or not these exchanges occurred during her employment. We also reached out to Ms. Sargent, the former employee, to ascertain the timing and context of the text in question. At this time it is still unclear when these exchanges took place." You can read the memo here.
If all this seems like no big deal, consider that The Boston Globe has achieved a national reputation for reporting a wide-ranging series of sexual scandals from priest abuse to prep school abuse. They have further reported on a myriad of men in politics, the arts, sports and media who have all been accused and named in print regardless of whether formal charges were filed. Last December, the Globe refused to name one of its own reporters accused of sexual harassment because McGrory said the charges did not rise to a level where naming would be appropriate. When they finally named Jim O’Sullivan, McGrory issued an apology to readers for failing to take proper note of the “Globe’s institutional credibility.” And in fact, the accusations were quite serious and came from more than one woman, including one inside the Globe.
Filling in for Jim Braude on WGBH’s Greater Boston, Adam Reilly asked me and Kennedy whether the Globe should be reporting this.
“Maybe the Globe is preparing something, maybe they are doing an internal investigation,” I said, noting that they “are not quick to jump on these things publicly.”
“People are struggling to make sense out of what happened, how serious it is and what the Globe should do about it," said Kennedy. "What Linda and John Henry might be doing is something that might not be shared at the next level down."
Further complicating matters, Sargent has not made clear the timing of the text message from McGrory. We do not know if it was after she left the Globe in February of 2016 or while she worked there. Nor do we know the context of this one text, what was said before or after, or whether they regularly shared this kind of banter in text message exchanges.
Regardless, The Boston Globe cannot ignore this. A credible accusation has been levied against the editor. As we await the results of an independent investigation into the writings of Globe columnist Kevin Cullen on whether he exaggerated or fabricated elements of his Boston Marathon bombing stories, the paper might want to do the same thing with this accusation against Brian McGrory.
This story has been updated to include the Globe's internal memo regarding the allegations.
Correction: This story originally stated that Hilary Sargent worked for BostonGlobe.com. In fact, she worked for Boston.com. We regret the error.