In April 2015, ESPN suspended reporter Britt McHenry for a week after video of her berating a towing company employee surfaced. In an interview with MarieClaire.com published on Monday, McHenry, 30, explains how the incident has affected her personal and professional life in the 20 months since.
McHenry, whose car had been towed from a lot in Arlington, apologized on Twitter after the exchange went viral. The clip featured McHenry hurling disparaging remarks at a clerk, including “That’s why I have a degree and you don’t” and “Lose some weight, baby girl.”
After receiving threats and insults in the aftermath of the exchange, McHenry said she feared for her life and filed a police report for her protection. She also said ESPN hired a security detail to usher her around and tabloid reporters showed up at her parents’ house in Florida.
“I knew I had brought all of this on myself,” McHenry told Marie Claire’s Abigail Pesta. “I apologized on Twitter and meant it. I felt awful about the hurtful words that had come out of my mouth in the exchange with the towing company employee. No matter the tenor of the conversation, I never should have responded in such a personal way.”
At first, McHenry ignored reading posts about the incident and poured all of her energy into her work.
“I believed I had to prove my professional credibility all over again, starting from zero — actually, from less than zero,” she said.
A few months later, though, she started staying up late to read posts about the incident, behavior McHenry described as self-inflicted punishment. McHenry said the vision in her right eye became cloudy and she was diagnosed with Central Serous Retinopathy, which is often linked to stress. She now receives injections to “prevent further damage” to her vision.
“I blame myself for all of this,” said McHenry, who worked as a sports reporter and anchor at WJLA for more than four years before being hired by ESPN in 2014. “But the video is not who I am. I’m telling this story because I want people to know the real me, to understand the true story about my upbringing, and how that night changed everything. It’s my hope that someone reading this can learn from it and avoid the same pitfall.”
McHenry said her goal is to turn her experience into “something positive” and is planning to speak to high school students “about how to be mindful of your words, how to be self-aware.”
Read McHenry’s entire interview here.