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Veteran Reporter and Single Mom Sues The Messenger for Leaving Her ‘High and Dry’

Rob Latour/Getty Images
Rob Latour/Getty Images

Political journalist Amie Parnes is suing defunct media startup The Messenger and its founder Jimmy Finkelstein for breach of contract.

She alleges Finkelstein lured her to the “centrist” news site with promises of a substantial severance package that he reneged on after The Messenger’s abrupt collapse.

Parnes’ complaint, which was filed late last month in Florida, is at least the fourth lawsuit filed by ex-Messenger employees accusing Finkelstein of welching on severance pay after the site spectacularly crashed and burned in late January, leaving nearly 300 staffers suddenly jobless.

Finkelstein did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to Parnes’ lawsuit, Finkelstein began courting her to join his new venture as early as July 2022, nearly a year before he officially launched The Messenger. At the time, Parnes was a senior correspondent for The Hill, the political media outlet that Finkelstein previously owned and then sold in 2021. Beginning in early 2023, according to the complaint, Finkelstein relentlessly pursued the best-selling author to join The Messenger even though she expressed hesitancy in leaving a stable, long-term position at The Hill.

“Parnes spent weeks agonizing about Finkelstein’s offer and leaving The Hill. She emphasized to Finkelstein that as a single mom, she had no safety net and nothing to fall back on. He reassured her that she would be fine and that he would ‘make sure of it,’” the suit adds.

Eventually, the complaint alleges, Finkelstein offered her $70,000 more annually than she was making at The Hill, promising Parnes that The Messenger was “well-funded and would be a source of stable employment” for her. He further enticed her by adding a four-month severance package to her contract, resulting in Parnes finally agreeing to jump ship in May 2023 after weeks of consideration due to her long-standing working relationship with Finkelstein.

Months later, amid reports that The Messenger was quickly running out of money, the lawsuit notes that Finkelstein told employees in January that the stories “were lies and reassured Parnes and her coworkers that things were okay.” Weeks later, however, Finkelstein abruptly closed up shop without notifying employees, who first found out about The Messenger’s demise through The New York Times.

In the aftermath, the lawsuit says that after the site’s closure, Parnes demanded the severance owed per her employment agreement, only for Finkelstein to say that the company “would not be paying her any severance.” According to her contract, Parnes should have been paid $83,333 upon termination as her annual salary was $250,000.

Parnes, who has since been re-hired by The Hill, wrote extensively in a Vanity Fair op-ed last month about how Finkelstein had wooed her to The Messenger only to leave her “high and dry” in the end.

“Jimmy has also called me twice to tell me to get in touch with two top journalists who could offer me work. When I told him I didn’t need job recommendations, that I needed my severance, he told me he wasn’t able to give it to me,” she wrote for Vanity Fair. “It was traumatic. And when you’ve experienced trauma—and we all have—you do your best to keep moving forward. And for single parents like myself, there is little time to wallow.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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