The Boston Globe filed a lawsuit today aimed at obtaining information about a former employee’s claim that she received an inappropriate text message from Brian McGrory, the Globe’s top editor.
Hilary Sargent, a former editor at the Globe-affiliated website Boston.com, recently tweeted an image of a text exchange in which she asks for writing advice and someone — allegedly McGrory — replies by asking what she wears when she writes. In a follow-up tweet, Sargent seemed to imply that the alleged exchange took place when she was a Globe employee.
In court filings, the Globe says it wants to investigate fully but can’t, because Sargent refuses to reveal the date of the exchange in question — something the paper says she’s obligated to do under a 2016 severance agreement. In addition, the paper contends, Sargent’s refusal has compromised the paper’s ability to respond to coverage of her allegations by WGBH News and other outlets.
In a statement released after the lawsuit was filed, the Globe said that McGrory willingly turned over his phone to the paper, but that “multiple attempts to retrieve the exchange from his phone have proved unsuccessful.” The statement also said the lawsuit was “an attempt to hear more, not less, from Ms. Sargent.”
The Globe attempted to reckon with its own history of sexual misconduct in a story that was published in December 2017. Afterward, Sargent sharply criticized the Globe’s efforts on Twitter — saying, among other things, that she’d been rebuffed by Globe leadership when she offered to provide information about what she described as a broad culture of sexual misconduct.
That same December 2017 article prompted an apologetic note from McGrory to Globe readers, in which he said the paper had erred in not identifying a male reporter who left the paper amid allegations of sexual conduct by name.
Earlier this week, McGrory responded to Sargent’s tweets in a note to Globe staff, saying, “I can’t believe I have to write these words, but I have never harassed Hilary Sargent or any other women at the Globe or anywhere else — ever.” He also said he and Sargent “dated many years ago,” and that after she left Boston.com in 2016, “we would sometimes exchange text messages that included the kind of personal banter of two people very familiar with each other.”
There may be other legal action to follow in the wake of Sargent’s accusation. On Wednesday, McGrory’s personal attorney accused Sargent of making “false and defamatory” statements in a letter to Sargent’s lawyer.
WGBH News was unable to obtain comment from Sargent or her attorney after the Globe’s lawsuit was filed. But on Thursday, Sargent tweeted: “With the [Boston Globe] threatening a lawsuit, I will say only this. This isn’t about one text. This isn’t about just [McGrory.] and this isn’t about just me.”