May 24, 2018

A purported eight-word text — “What do you generally wear when you write?” — has prompted The Boston Globe to launch an investigation into an allegation against its top editor.

Hilary Sargent, a former writer and editor of the Globe-owned website from 2014 to 2016, said Globe Editor Brian McGrory asked her that question in an inappropriate text-message exchange. She tweeted a screenshot of a text exchange with that question, but it didn’t list the participants or the time of the conversation.

McGrory, in a letter to staff, acknowledged he and Sargent have exchanged text messages, but said he cannot recall such a text and has asked her to provide more information. He said the two did date once, years before she joined the website, and he was not involved in her hiring nor in oversight of Sargent during her time there.

“I have never harassed Hilary Sargent or any other women at the Globe or anywhere else — ever,” he wrote.

Sargent challenged that view in an email to a Globe reporter but has said she cannot comment now. She said the newspaper’s lawyers have sent her a draft of a Superior Court lawsuit, which names her as a defendant. That suit would seek to compel Sargent under the terms of her 2016 separation agreement from the organization to provide the newspaper more information about the text in question, such as the date.

To a closed Facebook group of present and former Globe employees discussing the issue, Sargent wrote Thursday morning: “Would chime in but the Globe’s drafted complaint means I can’t for now.” (Disclosure: I worked as an editor at the Globe and its website until 2010, and am a part of that Facebook group).

Dan Krockmalnic, general counsel for Boston Globe Media Partners, told Globe reporter Mark Arsenault late Wednesday that the suit had not been filed and declined to comment further.

In a message to employees Tuesday, Linda Henry, Globe managing director, and Vinay Mehra, Globe president, said they are working “to gather as much relevant information” as they can. Henry and Mehra sent a link to employees who had concerns. They gave no timeline for the investigation, but wrote “we expect to have resolution on this matter soon.”

McGrory, a former columnist, metro editor and Washington bureau reporter, has been editor since 2012.

Related: Today's Poynter media roundup

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