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'Boston Globe' Sues Former Employee Who Accused Top Editor Of Sexual Harassment

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Boston Globe is suing a former employee who has accused the paper's top editor of sexual harassment. The Globe says the former employee Hilary Sargent isn't cooperating with its internal investigation. It's demanding more information about her accusations. Adam Reilly from member station WGBH joins us now to explain what's going on. And, Adam, how did this start?

ADAM REILLY, BYLINE: This started with Hilary Sargent, who you mentioned a moment ago, tweeting about a week ago that she had received a text message that she considered inappropriate that upset her a great deal from Brian McGrory, the Globe's editor, in which she asked him for writing advice and he responded by asking her what she wears when she writes.

Hilary Sargent, who has worked at the Globe in the past, no longer is there, she's been tweeting for quite some time saying that the Globe has a sexual misconduct problem that the paper hasn't fully reckoned with. She's taken issue with the paper's attempts to cover itself in this regard. But this is the most specific accusation she has made. And again, it involves the paper's top editor, Brian McGrory.

CORNISH: Tell us what the lawsuit is about. What is the Globe actually trying to get from Sargent in terms of information?

REILLY: According to the lawsuit, the Globe simply wants Sargent to comply with the terms of a severance agreement that she signed when she left the paper a couple years ago. In that agreement, Sargent committed to cooperating with any inquiry involving her tenure at the Globe if an inquiry like that arose. The paper wants her specifically to provide the date of the text message exchange that she tweeted out a few days ago.

Sargent implied on Twitter that this was an exchange that occurred while she was a Globe employee. The paper says in the lawsuit that its initial investigation has indicated that in fact this exchange did not occur when Sargent was an employee. But they want her to provide that date and claim that she has refused to do so. The paper also put out a statement this afternoon in which they said that they have been provided with the phone of Brian McGrory, and that efforts to obtain that same information from his device have been unsuccessful.

CORNISH: You talked about the response from the paper, but I understand Brian McGrory himself has responded at least in one fashion directly to staff.

REILLY: He wrote a letter to staff that was recently published in the Globe in which he took vigorous issue with Sargent's claims. He said he has never harassed her or any other woman. He defended his record when it comes to gender issues broadly speaking, saying among other things that he's been an advocate for pay equity in the Globe's newsroom. He also revealed a detail which is notable, although I'm not quite sure what to make of it, and I think a lot of other people following this story aren't quite sure what to make of it either. He said that he and Sargent had been in a relationship, a consensual relationship, that they no longer are, and that after that relationship ended he would sometimes banter with her in ways that he regrets now for reasons that go beyond the Globe.

CORNISH: The Globe is a powerful newspaper in the region. How is the story being covered by the rest of the Boston media?

REILLY: There's been sort of a split in coverage. There has been a good amount of straight news coverage here at WGBH, also a couple other publications in town. But then it's been taken up with some glee by conservative talk radio, a world in which the Globe is seen as a very powerful liberal news organization. This is an example, as they see it, of liberal hypocrisy by the Globe. And they're really I think it's fair to say delighting in watching this all unfold.

CORNISH: That's Adam Reilly of WGBH in Boston. Thank you for sharing your reporting with us.

REILLY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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