Sexual Harassment Is Hardly The Boston Globe’s Only Problem

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The most revealing thing about Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory’s memo last night to staffers isn’t that he and accuser Hilary Sargent used to date. It isn’t even that he can’t remember sending her a suggestive text message. (Which he doesn’t deny doing.)

It’s the tenor of his defense against Sargent’s accusation of sexual harassment.

“I have consistently put women in leadership positions, such that newsroom management is split equally by gender, with talented women holding many of the most pivotal jobs – managing editor, news editor, innovations editor, Spotlight editor, just to name a few,” McGrory wrote, as reported by media commentator Dan Kennedy on his web site Media Nation.

Why is splitting leadership positions equally by sex (not gender, by the way) a goal? Why is setting a bogus quota and meeting it an accomplishment?

Here’s another sentence:

“I devoted myself to the issue of gender pay equity from the first months that I took this position, and I’m proud to say that in key categories in the newsroom, we have achieved it.”

What does “gender pay equity” mean? Is the Globe now paying men and women equal amounts of money no matter what their job is or how they do it? Of course not. That’s ridiculous, and it’s not what “equity” means, anyway. Equity means using fair means to achieve a just result. Like, say, promoting someone who deserves it and paying that person what the job is worth, irrespective of factors such as race, creed, or sex (again, not gender).

This is fake virtue. When McGrory read the memo over to himself before he clicked “Send,” did he ever hear the echo of its hollowness?

As for the details of the case against McGrory:  To hear McGrory describe his relationship with former staff member Sargent, they dated years ago when she didn’t work at the Globe, remained on friendly terms afterward, and exchanged in banter through text messages in the two-plus years since she left. He says he had nothing to do with Sargent being hired and never had any supervisory role over her.

The business relationship is apparently the focal point of the Globe’s investigation of McGrory. That is why the Globe is all hot-to-trot about finding out the date McGrory sent a text message asking Sargent “What do you generally wear when you write?” By McGrory’s reasoning, if the text message was sent after Sargent no longer worked at the Globe, it can’t be taken as a case of workplace harassment.

(As for what it says about what McGrory calls elsewhere his “basic sense of decency” …)

McGrory’s fate will probably be determined by whether managing editor Linda Henry (wife of owner John Henry) agrees with the following two sentences in McGrory’s memo:

“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. I don’t believe I have ever acted inappropriately with anyone at this company.”

This is apparently McGrory’s formula for saving his job. Good luck to him.

But if he does survive, perhaps he’ll refocus on what he calls “the vital work of the Globe” – assuming that means something other than scurrying after elusive PC nirvana.