Sargent warned Henry about sexual harassment at Globe
Court filing disputes McGrory claim he had nothing to do with her hiring
AN ATTORNEY FOR former Boston Globe reporter and editor Hilary Sargent on Tuesday sought to block the newspaper’s attempt to force his client to cooperate with an investigation into allegations that editor Brian McGrory wrote her sexually suggestive messages. But his court filing also raised new issues about her relationship with McGrory and Sargent’s past attempts to convince Globe officials “that this type of inappropriate behavior is a long-standing and pervasive problem at the Globe.”
The filing in Suffolk Superior Court late Tuesday included an affidavit from Sargent disputing McGrory’s claim that he had nothing to do with her hiring at Boston.com and also contained copies of emails she sent to Globe owner John Henry and president Vinay Mehra in November raising alarms about a history of sexual harassment at the newspaper. She said both were ignored.
Jack I. Siegal, the attorney representing Sargent, said in his filing with the court that the Globe’s claim of being harmed by Sargent’s allegations appearing in the media is baseless because by reporting on the allegations, the paper has created the “media circus” surrounding the issue. As a result, he said, the Globe has no legal basis for requiring his client to cooperate now.
“The Globe‘s scorched earth approach is not conducive to cooperation, let alone reasonable cooperation in a way fair to Ms. Sargent,” says Siegal of the law firm Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani, LLP. “Simply put, there is no breach and there is no refusal to cooperate.”
The Globe filed suit against Sargent after she posted on May 20 a screengrab on Twitter of an exchange she alleges was between her and McGrory ostensibly about a writing project but in which the other person asks, “What do you generally wear when you write?” Sargent did not initially identify the other person as McGrory but the next day claimed it came from the editor but did not indicate whether it occurred while she worked there, though many got that impression. The text also didn’t include any date or time the message was sent.
The Globe’s suit, in which the newspaper deemed Sargent’s accusations as “false,” seeks to have Sargent turn over the message thread, saying they have been unable to retrieve it from McGrory’s phone. At the time of the suit, a spokeswoman for the paper said officials want the information to launch an investigation into the allegations. The filing from Sargent’s attorney shows the Globe has hired the law firm of Proskauer Rose LLP to conduct the investigation, the same firm that filed the suit against her.
But in the response to the Globe suit, Sargent says she does not have the text, only screenshots. While she said her recollection is that the message could have been sent while she was working at the newspaper, she said the exchange also may have happened after she left Boston.com in 2016.
In an affidavit filed with the brief, Sargent said there is evidence of years of similar messages from McGrory and others going back to her time as a 20-year-old intern in 1999 and continuing through her return to Boston.com in 2014.
“The purpose of my May 20-21, 2018, tweets was to bring public awareness to what I consider to be McGrory’s inappropriate behavior, and – more importantly — to bring attention to the Globe‘s leadership my concerns and view that this type of inappropriate behavior is a long-standing and pervasive problem at the Globe,” Sargent said in her affidavit. “I do not specifically recall whether the iMessage exchange… occurred during my employment with the Plaintiff. The exchange, however, is 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.”
Sargent says in the filing she was a co-op student in the Globe’s newsroom and at the State House bureau on two separate stints between June 1998 and August 1999. Sargent says she and McGrory began their relationship in 1999 and continued through 2004.
Sargent also disputed McGrory’s claim in a memo to staff that while he and Sargent had a dating relationship “years ago,” he had nothing to do with her hiring at Boston.com. She challenged the Globe to look through McGrory’s emails to confirm his involvement in her hiring.
The brief also has copies of emails Sargent sent to Globe owner John Henry and president Vinay Mehra in November as the paper was weathering a storm over a former State House reporter who was forced to resign after he sent lurid emails to Beacon Hill staffers. Sargent’s emails, according to the brief, are proof that she not only sought to cooperate but was ignored by Globe officials for months.
“I’m not on a mission against the Globe,” Sargent wrote to Mehra on November 8, 2017. “I think if you know my experience — which I haven’t disclosed but which spans both my intern experience as well as my recent time at the Globe — it will help you ensure the Globe is a safe place for young women in the years to come.”
On December 19, 2017, Sargent wrote to Henry after she had begun posting Twitter messages and speaking out about what she claimed was the Globe turning a blind eye to sexual harassment in its own offices while writing about similar incidents elsewhere.
“John, I am sure you and Linda [Pizzuti Henry] are understandably upset with me for speaking out on this, but I do not think I am wrong to do so,” Sargent wrote. “At the least, I truly think you both should know what happened to me there. I’m sure you’ve heard pieces of it second hand, but I’m also sure that if you heard it from me you would understand why I feel so passionate about this topic.”
In her affidavit, Sargent said she was never contacted by anyone following the emails.A hearing on the Globe’s request for an injunction is slated for Thursday.